Letter to the Editor: Limit human interactions during seal season

Responders from Marine Education, Research and Rehabilitation Institute, Inc., (MERR) were monitoring an approximately 2-month-old gray seal pup last week at Broadkill Beach.

Although most residents and beachgoers were respectful of the seal and the information our volunteers were providing, one beach walker refused to abide by the 150′ distance. She also had a large dog with her, and although it was leashed, she allowed the dog to walk within 10′ of the seal and the dog displayed aggressive behavior, frightening the seal and scaring it back into the water before it was ready.

This is a reminder that seals need to get out of the water to rest or they will drown. They are mammals like we are and need to breathe air, including during sleep.

We are in the height of seal season here in Delaware, and most of the seals that will be hauling out on beaches and other areas of land are pups, and just like human babies they need to sleep a lot.

MERR is still responding to marine mammals in distress despite decreased resources caused by the coronavirus. You can assist in this by following these important steps:

• Please help to keep seals safe by abiding by federal wildlife protection laws and maintain a distance of at least 150 feet from a seal
• Keep dogs on a leash and at the same minimum distance;
• Do not feed, touch, or push the animal back into the water. This is frightening and even fatal for the animal and puts humans at risk of disease transmission.

As more and more people are spending time outdoors during the coronavirus restrictions, please remember that the beach is a seal’s habitat. Enjoy this amazing wildlife sighting and view through binoculars, and take photos from the same 150 foot distance.

Please notify MERR immediately about seals by calling 302-228-5029 so that our trained responders can assess the seal’s condition and provide rescue if needed, or monitoring to help the seal to rest by providing the public with the best information.

Rob Rector
Marine Education, Research and Rehabilitation Institute, Inc.