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Stop feeding PB&J sandwiches to migrating seals on the beach, Cape Cod officials ask

Wareham officials in Massachusetts’ Cape Cod responded to reports of a sick or hurt harp seal on a beach Monday. It was healthy, but officials told visitors to stay away and quit leaving peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
Wareham officials in Massachusetts’ Cape Cod responded to reports of a sick or hurt harp seal on a beach Monday. It was healthy, but officials told visitors to stay away and quit leaving peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Wareham Department of Natural Resources

Wildlife officials checking on a harp seal that was reported sick found the animal in good condition on a Massachusetts beach Monday — but with some worrisome snacks at its side.

“While the intent was nice that they thought he would love a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on his way down the coast, we frown upon it,” said Garry Buckminster, director of the Wareham Department of Natural Resources in Wareham on Cape Cod, according to Boston.com. “I’m sure someone came across it and felt bad for it.”

Officials with the Wareham Department of Natural Resources posted about the Swifts Beach incident on Facebook Monday saying that sandwiches were left for the seal, who they called Sammy. Officials posted pictures of the seal resting on the sand in the sun.

Officials advised seal-watchers not to feed human food to the seals (Sammy is “watching his weight,” they said), and asked that visitors refrain from helping seals into the water and wrapping seals up in blankets.

Buckminster said that — because it was so cold on the beach — some seal-watchers had planned to wrap Sammy in blankets before the wildlife officer got there to check on the animal, Boston.com reports.

“We ask that if you come across a seal to please keep a significant distance and do not disturb them,” the officials wrote on Facebook. “Harp seals tend to eat sand when they become stressed and it is not good for them.”

Harp seals usually feed on small fish, such as Arctic cod, polar cod and capelin, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Sammy wasn’t visibly hurt when the officer looked him over, and was “alert, had good hydration rings around its eyes and was vocal due to the onlookers congregating close by,” officials said.

Wildlife officials will keep watching the seal to make sure he is in good health.

Harp seal cubs swim from Canada south along the eastern seaboard of the United States this time of year along a migratory route, making stops along the way, Boston.com reports.

“They’re just trying to rest,” Buckminster said of seals on Cape Cod, according to Boston.com.

Harp seals’ range in the U.S. extends from New England down to the Mid-Atlantic region, according to NOAA. The seals typically weigh 260 to 300 pounds and grow 5 to 6 feet long during adulthood, living up to 30 years.

The annual return of the elephant seals is underway at Piedras Blancas, California, starting off with pup season and then breeding at the beach on Highway 1 near San Simeon.

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