Seal birthing season is underway in New England, but taking selfies with pups on the beach isn't cool, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has warned.
"Seals have powerful jaws, and can leave a lasting impression," NOAA wrote on its website
. "We have received reports of a number of injuries to humans as a result of getting too close to an animal during a quick photo op."
A close encounter could also be devastating to the seal.
Seals may leave their pups alone on the beach for as long as 24 hours, but beachgoers should stay at least 50 yards away, according to NOAA. Getting too close could cause the mother to abandon the pup if she feels threatened.
Additionally, such harassment is illegal under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972.
"The best thing you can do if you want to help is keep away from the animal and keep your pets away from it, so the mother has a chance to return," said Mendy Garron, marine mammal stranding program coordinator for NOAA Fisheries Greater Atlantic Region.
The warning comes not long after a related incident in Yellowstone National Park, where officials were forced to euthanize a newborn bison after concerned visitors put it in their vehicle and took it to a park facility.
Attempts to reunite the calf with the herd failed, and the abandoned baby caused a dangerous situation by continually approaching people and cars along the roadway, according to the National Park Service
Likewise, in February, a baby Franciscana dolphin died after beachgoers in Argentina pulled it from the water and passed it around, taking selfies. In yet another incident, a man in Palm Beach, Florida, sparked outrage for pulling a shark from the ocean for a photo op, the Christian Science Monitor noted
Twitter users quickly shared the warning issued by NOAA.
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