Update | Sunday May 25 8:30 a.m.
A specially trained team of marine mammal experts late Friday captured a harbor seal pup that had been hauled out near the Auke Bay boat ramp since Thursday.
The capture operation took about 20 minutes and the pup is in good condition, according to a NOAA Fisheries release sent Sunday morning. NOAA Spokeswoman Julie Speegle writes that the pup was taken to the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward, where it will be trained to fend for itself. The plan is to reintroduce it to the Juneau area, she says.
Officials were worried for the pup’s safety with increased traffic expected in the Auke Bay area over Memorial Day weekend. Speegle says it’s common for harbor seal mothers to leave their young hauled out while the mothers forage for food. While there were adult harbor seals nearby, NOAA officials were not able to determine if one of them was the pup’s mother.
Original post | Friday May 23 1:00 p.m.
Marine mammal experts are asking Juneau residents to avoid disturbing a harbor seal pup that’s been hauled out near the Auke Bay boat ramp since Thursday.
With increased boating activity expected over Memorial Day weekend, officials are concerned for the pup’s safety. NOAA Fisheries Spokeswoman Julie Speegle says the animal appears to be in good health, but if it has too much interaction with humans its mother may abandon it.
“This is normal harbor seal behavior,” Speegle says. “Mothers will often leave their pups hauled out in a spot and the pups generally stay where their mama leaves them while the mother goes and forages for food. She just chose a really busy spot to leave her pup.”
Speegle says officials are not sure if the seal pup has been abandoned already. If so, a specially trained team of marine mammal experts may be brought in to capture the animal and take it to the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward. The center would train the pup to fend for itself before releasing it back into the wild.
“We will see what activity is like in the Auke Bay area this weekend,” Speegle says. “And if the activity seems to be too much or too dangerous for the pup, then we may go ahead and take action, or we may wait and see if the mother comes back.”
Speegle says people should keep their pets on a leash to keep them from approaching the seal as well.
It’s illegal to harass harbor seals under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. If you see harassment, call NOAA Fisheries Law Enforcement at 1-800-853-1964.