Springtime is “pup season” on Nature’s Coast, and whenever possible, I make plans to be there. For if there is a more beautiful expression of bonding between a mother and her young, I haven’t yet seen it.
Born in a flash (blink and you might miss it, even when watching closely), newborn harbor seals enter their vast new “water world” ready within minutes to swim like they’re coming home.
Mothers, when present, are very supportive, attentive and protective. However, if she feels a sudden need to swim to sea (theories vary as to why she might), she may leave her pup unattended on the beach for a considerable period of time. Every so often, well-meaning but sadly ignorant humans will happen upon a seemingly motherless pup and attempt to “rescue” it. One such person I know took a pup home and kept it in her bathtub, horribly unable to feed or care for it, finally releasing it on a different beach, where with little hope of reconnecting with its mother, its chances of survival were poor. Thus the best advice for anyone finding an “abandoned” seal pup on the beach, is absolutely to leave it alone, right where it is, where its mother will return to care for it. If torn by emotion and tempted to act otherwise, it might help to know this:
Interfering with seal pups and other sea mammals is highly illegal. Violators risk jail time and fines of thousands of dollars, and have in fact been prosecuted in Oregon.
Video is useful for capturing more than beauty, as almost every shot contains additional information unseen until reviewed later on a large-screen display. In this clip, for instance, scars on the mother’s abdomen bespeak a too-close encounter with (presumably) a boat propeller. Both harbor seals and sea lions frequently turn up at viewing locations with horrific-looking injuries, which as this new mother demonstrates, are surprisingly often survivable.