Marine Wildlife Rehabilitation - Oil Spill Response
Veterinary Advice for the Public
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© Irish Seal Sanctuary

Seal pups are frequently left alone on beaches while the mother goes off to feed. IN many instances when a pup is seen on its own the mother is actually watching it from the water very nearby. Therefore just because you don’t see her does not mean she isn’t there, or that she won’t return.

If the pup is handled by a human (or even a dog) trace of their scent are left on the seal pup. This may lead to maternal recognition problems and in many cases abandonment of the pup.

By touching a seal pup you are often inflicting the harm you were seeking to undo! While before the mother may not have abandoned her pup, after it has been touched by a human she almost certainly will!

It is for this reason the advice is given by all those involved in seal rehabilitation and care is:

What You Should Do

Retreat from the seal pup as far as possible, keep all dogs children other people from approaching the seal.

Do not approach the seal

If seal pup appears in distress: breathing difficulties, obvious injury to flippers mouth eyes body, gagging, coughing, and bleeding.


Watch the seal pup for 24hrs to see if mother returns. If you know for a fact that the mother has not returned for 24hr period.

Call the Irish seal sanctuary - Give precise location of pup and explain that the mother has not been seen for a 24hr period.

What You Should Not Do
  • Do not try and put seal back in water - if the seal pup is not yet weaned it is unlikely it has ever been in the water. It will not be proficient at swimming and may drown. If the seal pup is weaned it may have come ashore due to illness or exhaustion. Forcing it back into the water could result in the seal pup drowning.
  • Do not try and feed seal.
  • Never touch seal or move seal unless doing so under veterinary guidance.
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Created by UCD School of Agriculture, Food Science and Veterinary Medicine. 2008

Irish Seal Sanctuary