EDMONDS — It’s an annual problem: Seals pups show up on the beach in Edmonds and well-meaning people attempt to help them, causing more problems than they solve.
Five new signs at parks on the Edmonds waterfront aim to help visitors know what to do if they spot a marine mammal on the beach.
Edmonds Seal Sitters, a group of volunteers who stand guard over seals that have come ashore on the city’s beaches, identified the need for such community outreach and city officials believe the signs will fill the bill.
The signs are up at Marina Beach, the off-leash area at South Marina Beach, Olympic Beach and Brackett’s Landing parks.
“There is a lot more awareness of seals on the city beaches,” said Sally Lider, environmental education coordinator for Edmonds Parks and Recreation.
“That has spurred the public to want to protect marine mammals.”
However, that concern needs to be channeled in the right direction, Lider said.
“When people see seals, particularly baby seals, on the beach they get upset,” she said. “They don’t know what they are supposed to do, and they think the animal needs help.”
On rare occasions a beached seal does need professional attention if, for example, it is injured or dehydrated. More often than not, however, the seal is simply resting between fishing forays.
Seal pups are put on the beach by their mothers while the mothers go out to feed. Weaned pups and adolescents need to rest between their meals.
“The correct move, of course, is to leave the seal alone,” Lider said.
Pupping season for local seals begins in late summer and carries through into fall, sometimes extending into December.
Lider has experienced “helpful” people putting water on the seals, trying to feed them and even considering taking them home to put into a bathtub.
A grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration covered the cost of the signs.
Similar signage is placed around Puget Sound, including Alki Beach in West Seattle.