It's just like the Paul Simon song "Mother and Child Reunion," but with more flippers

By Saryn Chorney
May 02, 2017 02:11 PM
Credit: Johnny Hope :copyright: The Marine Mammal Center

It’s just like the Paul Simon song “Mother and Child Reunion,” but with more flippers.

Recently, the Marine Mammal Center of Sausalito, California, assisted in a daring, and ultimately adorable, rescue of a trapped harbor seal pup at the Point Lobos State Natural Reserve in Carmel.

The Center’s Monterey Bay Operations got a call from a Good Samaritan about the seal pup, which appeared to be trapped between some large rocks along the shoreline. While maintaining a safe distance and following sea mammal safety instructions, the State Park staff and members of the Carmel Highlands Fire Department were able to “scale the rocks and carefully dislodge the pup, relocating it on a nearby boat ramp to see if they could reunite the seal with its mother,” according to a press release from the Center. “Maternal separation, often by negative human interaction, is one of the leading causes of harbor seal rescues at the Center each spring. Harbor seal mothers can abandon their pups if they feel their young offspring has been disturbed.”

Credit: Johnny Hope :copyright: The Marine Mammal Center

Once the pup was rescued, the team and onlookers who had gathered nearby anxiously watched to see if the mother seal would return to claim her pup. After about a half hour, the baby went out and tested the waters, circling and calling for its mom, who eventually popped her head right up beside it. The mother and seal pup “kissed” and embraced — touching noses and circling one another — and soon thereafter, she brought him to shore to nurse.

Credit: Johnny Hope :copyright: The Marine Mammal Center

“This story definitely demonstrates just how time-consuming and tenuous the waiting part of a rescue can be … Thanks to members of the public resisting the urge to pick the animal up or get too close, they gave this pup a better chance of survival,” said Julia O’Hern, Operations Manager at the Center’s Monterey Bay Operations.

The Center also shared these tips with the public on how to safely view seal pups:

  1. The best thing for people to do is to keep their distance! It’s OK to take photos and admire the animals, but remember to keep a safe distance of at least 50 feet.
  2. If an animal appears ill or injured, or you don’t see the mom nearby, please don’t try to intervene. Call the Center’s 24-hour rescue hotline at 415-289-SEAL (7325). The Center will monitor the animal for 24 hours or more, depending on the situation and, if necessary, trained volunteers will rescue it safely.
  3. The distinctive “mah! mah!” cry of a harbor seal pup may sound like a call for help, but it’s never a good idea to interfere. The mother may be just off-shore foraging for food for her pup, and if a human or dog gets too close, she may abandon the pup altogether.
  4. Elephant seal pups should also be enjoyed from a safe distance. Like their harbor seal counterparts, they are quite photogenic on the beach and susceptible to encroachment.
  5. Keeping a safe distance goes for drones, too! Flying a drone too close to a resting seal or sea lion could harass and negatively alter its behavior, a violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Please remember to fly your drone responsibly and film wildlife at a safe distance.

The Center assisted in the rescue of a baby sea lion, which involved a surfer, last month.