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Sealing the Deal

Harbor seals protected during pupping season

Kind News magazine, Apr/May 2015

Photo by Danita Delimont/Alamy

Wild animal moms spend a great deal of time caring for their babies and teaching them how to find food and shelter. And that's just what harbor seal mothers in La Jolla, California, want to do. For years, seals have used a small beach in La Jolla as a safe place to give birth and raise their young. The beach is protected from pounding waves by a sea wall, making it an inviting spot for the seals to come ashore.

Some people in the area object to the seals being on the beach. They want the beach available for people to use—not seals. They want the seals driven away from the beach for good.

Video cameras near the shore captured people bothering and even hitting, kicking and sitting on the seals.

Harbor seals at Children's Beach in La Jolla, California.


Protecting the pups

For many years, The Humane Society of the United States and other groups have asked for protection for the seals—especially during pupping season when mother seals give birth and raise their young. In 2012, city leaders voted to put a rope across a section of the beach to encourage people to stay away from the seals.

Still, people continued to go on the beach day and night. Some wanted to take pictures with the seals, others to bother the animals.

So last March, city leaders took action. They ruled that the beach would be off-limits to people during pupping season (Dec. 15-May 15). And last August the California Coastal Commission agreed. Anyone going onto the beach during that time will now face arrest.

"It's unfortunate that some folks resent sharing the beach with seals," says Sharon Young, HSUS marine issues director. "But this closure for just a few months is the best way of protecting these moms and newborns."

For now, mother harbor seals can nurse their babies in peace along the beach. People can watch the animals from the nearby sea wall—and then be back on the beach in late May.

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