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Contact: Dr. Sarah Allen, 415-464-5187
An unusual number of dead harbor seals have been washing onshore at Point Reyes National Seashore since early April of this year, with a large concentration the last two weeks. Personnel from the Marine Mammal Stranding Network which is comprised of several agencies and organizations including the National Marine Fisheries Service, California Academy of Sciences, Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, Marine Mammal Center, and Point Reyes National Seashore.
Personnel from these groups have been surveying beaches and collecting data and tissue samples from these dead seals. These samples are being analyzed at UC Davis Veterinary School of Medicine. Approximately 35 seals have washed to shore, mostly north of Bolinas within Point Reyes National Seashore. Most of the animals found have been dead for several weeks. The likely cause of death is from a sudden virus, since the general condition of the animals was determined after evaluation as good. There is no evidence of human intervention to date.
The harbor seal population at Point Reyes National Seashore represents approximately 20% of the population in California. Please do not approach live seals closer than 100 yards and do not disturb seals by flushing them into the water. Seals normally rest onshore for several hours per day in large groups; if disturbed too often, the seals will permanently leave an area. There are a number of haul out sites within Point Reyes including Tomales Bay, Limantour and Drakes Esteros, and Bolinas Lagoon.
If you come across a sick or dead animal, please report it to the Stranding Network at (415) 750-7177, ext. 2.