Why you should never take a selfie with a seal

Whatever you do, don’t take a picture with a baby seal. You know how someone telling you not to do something sometimes makes you want to do it even more? Don’t be one of those people. Just don’t. (Is it working yet?)

“There is no selfie stick long enough!” That’s the message coming from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in time for Memorial Day weekend when, if the weather holds, people will flock to beaches and coastlines where they might encounter a baby seal.

They might even think about putting their cute child next to the cute seal to take a picture. But that’s a pretty terrible idea. First of all, seals have powerful jaws, and they can use them.

“We have received reports of a number of injuries to humans as a result of getting too close to an animal during a quick photo op. When you get too close to a wild animal, you risk stressing or threatening it, and stressed animals are much more likely to act unpredictably,” NOAA said.

(Stock photo)

(Stock photo)

But what if you see a seal pup all by itself on the beach? Don’t panic. That’s normal. Also, if you see a pup all by itself, crying loudly, that’s normal, too. That’s what seal pups do.

As NOAA helpfully points out, mother seals may leave their young pups alone for up to 24 hours while they feed. You probably won’t see the mom in the water, but she will probably see you by her pup. And something devastating could happen: She might not think it’s safe to come back, and, feeling threatened, abandon her adorable baby.

If it’s a curious pup and comes up to you, don’t pet it, feed it, put it back in the water, hug it or put it in your car. Don’t let your pet near it. Just stay away.

“As a rule of thumb, stay at least 50 yards (150 feet) from seals. A curious seal pup might approach on its own, but the mother is likely to be nearby, and may see your interaction as a threat,” according to NOAA.

If that’s not enough for you, it can also be illegal to approach a wild animal. As NOAA explained, “Under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, harassment is defined as ‘any act of pursuit, torment, or annoyance’ which has the potential to injure or disturb a marine animal.”

If you believe a seal to be in trouble, there are some things you can do:

  • Call the NOAA Fisheries Northeast Regional 24-hour hotline at (866) 755-NOAA (6622) to report a marine mammal that appears stranded.
  • Contact the law enforcement office at (800) 853-1964 if you see someone harassing a marine mammal.

Just remember, no selfies.