Seals, which are perfectly at home out of the water, are commonly observed on Maritime shorelines. Seals temporarily “haul out” on land to rest and mothers briefly leave their pups while at sea. They are also often seen in freshwater lakes and rivers. It is important to remember that not all seals which are found ashore are in distress, if you are unsure, please visit our what is a stranding page.

If you find a seal in Nova Scotia that appears to be injured, ill or in an unusual location,
call the Marine Animal Response Society Hotline at:

Contact Marine Animal Response Society immediately with the following information:
  • The exact location of the seal (e.g. beach or closest town)
  • The number of animals
  • The time that you first sighted the animal(s)
  • The species of the animal, if you are able to identify it
  • A description of the animal (i.e. size, colouring, and other physical features; see species profiles).
  • A description of the animal’s condition. Is it weak and gaunt? Are there any open wounds?
  • Does it have any identification tags or markings?

*If you’ve found an injured or ill seal, do not touch, feed or handle the animal. These actions are illegal and could be dangerous to both you and the animal.

After calling the MARS, you may be given instructions that you can follow to help the stranded animal(s) including:

1. Maintain a safe distance from the animal.

By-standers and pets should stay at least 50 feet away from stranded marine mammals.Marine mammals are wild animals – close approach and excessive noise can cause great stress. Stranded animals may have infectious diseases that could be passed to you or your pet. Make sure pets are under control and kept away from the stranded animal.

  • DO NOT touch, pick up, or feed the animal. Even small seals have sharp teeth with which they can bite people.
  • DO NOT try to return the animal to the water. Pups of some species are not good swimmers and thus could drown if put in the water.
2. Observe the animal’s behaviour from a distance.

It is natural for seals to come ashore to rest for extended periods of time. If the seal is injured or if its behavior seems abnormal contact the hotline. Healthy seals are usually fairly plump (except young pups). Some healthy seals will also bark, growl or hiss if approached. Seals resting on the beach may or may not move around much but may often lift their heads of tails to look around and adjust their position. Remember that sometimes the mother has left her pup alone so she can feed. She will return and feed the pup until it is weaned.

3. Take Pictures!

Photographs are invaluable. If at all possible, please photograph the animal from all visible angles and of all wounds or injuries.

Legal Responsibility

All marine mammals are protected under the federal Fisheries Act. It is illegal for unauthorized individuals to touch, disturb, feed or otherwise harass these animals. A scientific licence is required to handle marine mammals and, depending on the species, a Species at Risk permit may also be required. MARS annually applies for and receives these permits.