MERR reminds public to report, not approach, seals

The MERR (Marine Education, Research & Rehabilitation) Institute this week issued a reminder to the public that seals are once again present along Delaware beaches and other waterways. From December through April, it is common to see seals on the area’s beaches, docks and other locations where they can get out of the water to rest.

According to MERR, Delaware commonly sees four different species of seals, all of which make their way to the area from the pupping colonies in the North. Oftentimes the animals are healthy, they noted, but at other times they may be suffering from illness or injury, and are in need of veterinary care.

MERR is Delaware’s official marine mammal and sea turtle stranding response organization and will assess a seal’s condition to determine the best course of treatment. In the case of a healthy animal, MERR will station volunteers at the site to monitor the seal and to help provide information to beachgoers. In the case of an ill or injured seal, MERR will perform a rescue and provide subsequent veterinary treatment.

Anyone who encounters a seal is being asked to contact MERR as soon as possible, by calling the 24- hour reporting hotline at (302) 228-5029. They should keep a mandatory distance of 150 feet from the animal so as not to disturb it, and always keep pets on a leash and at a safe distance.

“Remember, seals are wild animals and can bite if they feel threatened. Do not touch a seal, or approach too closely. The goal is to help the seal to rest undisturbed so it can return to the water of its own accord.”

For more information, visit MERR’s website at www.merrinstitute.org.