Your social media posts about seals at the Jersey Shore may be hurting the animals
If you are seeing pictures of seals on the beaches of New Jersey on your social media feeds, and those photos look like closeups, it could be a big problem for the seals.
News 12 New Jersey caught up with Madison Young on a beach in Strathmere as she corralled a lethargic, stranded, baby gray seal. Young is a stranding technician with the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine.
“Very lethargic. I thought she was dead when I walked up,” Young says.
The seal was brought back to the center, where technician Troy Platt fed the seal a bottle of formula and weighed and measured it. It was the first step in what would be a full exam. The hope is to eventually rehabilitate and eventually release the seal back into the ocean.
It is seal season in New Jersey and the stranding center is busy. The Strathmere seal joined two other new arrivals - another baby gray seal found in a driveway in Harvey Cedars and a harp seal found in Margate.
“We’re getting a lot of calls for seals resting on the beach, which is completely normal for them,” says Michele Pagel with the stranding center.
Wildlife experts say that the fastest-growing threats to these seals are humans looking for social media likes. Center workers say that they are seeing a disturbing increase in the number of people getting closer than the 150-foot minimum distance allowed by federal law – mostly to take pictures for Instagram and Facebook.
“We do seem to have a lot of people that are really excited to see the seals and unfortunately are pushing the envelope and getting too close to the animals,” says Pagel.
The problem is made rose when people post the seals’ location and attract more people.
“A lot of these seals have swum hundreds of miles to get there,” Pagel says.
If the seals are too disturbed by the people, they may return to the water too soon, and it could be detrimental to the seal. The Center issued a statement this week to remind people of the laws the require people to stay away 150 feet. There is also a new rule: Don’t post the location on social media.
“Our goal here is to help keep the seals incognito,” says Pagel.
For anyone who does want a picture with a seal, the center recommends using a telephoto lens or a pair of binoculars. They also suggest keeping dogs on leashes when seals might be around.