POINT REYES (CBS SF) — Annual closures of areas of the Point Reyes National Seashore will be in effect to keep beachgoers from interacting with seal pups during pupping season, according to park officials.
Closures will be in effect March 1st, through June 30th in various areas of the park to protect Harbor Seals birthing along the seashore on sand bars and remote beaches.
The western most point of Limantour Spit is also closed to all human activity during the pupping season. Hog Island in Tomales Bay is closed during this same time period protection of harbor seal pupping areas, as well as for nesting and roosting sea birds such as double-crested cormorants and brown pelicans.
Officials from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary say newborn harbor seals, which are born in late winter and spring, are often mistaken for orphans when they are left unattended and can be inadvertently separated from their mothers.
The mothers tend to leave their pups alone on the beach while they’re feeding at sea before returning to nurse the pup.
Also, the presence of humans or dogs could prevent the mother from reuniting with her pup.
Interactions could lead to pup deaths, the marine sanctuary reported.
Some wildlife experts recommend staying at least 300 feet from any seal pups.
“The rule of thumb is, if a seal reacts to your presence—you’re too close,” sanctuary marine biologist Jan Roletto said in a statement. “Avoid eye contact and back away slowly until they no longer notice you.”
Additionally, seals are protected under the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act. Interference with the animals could result in legal penalties.
Concerned beachgoers who wish to report an orphaned or injured seal are encouraged to contact a park ranger.