With the changing of the seasons (it’s spring now, if you couldn’t tell) comes some new alerts for animal lovers who might allow common sense to fall by the wayside. Don’t give in, dummies — sure, non domestic animals sure are neat, but unless you know what you’re doing, you can hurt them or yourselves.
The Marine Mammal Center wants to make sure that you, yeah, you, will steer clear of those adorable, cuddly harbor seal pups that are being are being born on Bay Area beaches and sand bars even as I write this. In a release, they say that “newborn seal pups could suffer permanent harm if mistaken for orphans and accidentally separated from their mothers” which can happen when “mother harbor seals…leave their pups on the beach while they forage at sea,” with full plans to “return to reclaim and nurse their pups.”
So if you see a lone pup, don’t take matters (or the pup) into your own hands, report them to the Marine Mammal Center at 415-289-SEAL (7325).
You’re less likely to try to pick up a migrating whale, but you still need to use a little smarts when around them — this is the time of year that whales migrate into the area in “large numbers,” says the Gulf of The Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. Boaters, kayakers, and other ocean and Bay sportspeople need to watch out and steer clear of our giant springtime visitors, who “often travel near shore and may even wander into the bay itself.”
Sure, we have whales around here all the time, but they say that “springtime sees most nearshore gray whales, including females with newborn calves slowly making their way back north from Baja calving grounds.” The Sanctuary says you should “watch for their blow as they surface, which looks like a puff of smoke, low and bushy.” The next time I am at OB, I am totally going to see phantom whale smoke, like, every time a seagull drops trash into the water or whatever.
In any case, you need to stay 300 feet away from them (bring a ruler!) and never “cut across their path of travel, or separate a whale cow from her calf.” I have a feeling if you try the latter, things will get pretty ugly pretty fast.