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'Selfie Culture' Putting Seal Pups At Risk, New England Aquarium Says

BOSTON (CBS) – Wildlife experts say that as the weather gets warmer, "selfie culture" is becoming an issue for frightened young seals that move to shore to rest during rough seas along the Massachusetts coast.

New England Aquarium said that over the weekend, a large number seals came ashore to rest. When they reached the coast, the animals were encountered by large groups of beachgoers who "were much too close and consequently stressing out these vulnerable young animals."

Thousands of grey seal pups come to the shores of Massachusetts during in late winter, as well as yearling harp seals from Canada.

"Seal pups are enormously cute, and they bring out both our curiosity and desire to take care of them, but more than 95% of the time, the help that they need from people is to be left alone and not disturbed," the aquarium said.

Seal Entangled
An entangled seal pup in Plymouth Harbor. (Image Credit: New England Aquarium)

By federal law, beachgoers are required to stay more than 150 feet away from a resting seal. But wildlife experts say the desire for a photo often causes people to get too close.

"Misuse of social media has made life much more difficult for resting, young seals," the aquarium said. "When discovered, their locations are often posted to social media websites drawing many more people to the scene, often resulting in crowds of people gathered within a few feet of a very frightened seal pup. Selfie culture has resulted in people taking pictures which are way too close to the animal."

The aquarium reminded people not to touch seals or feed them, and don't pour water onto the animals. Beachgoers are asked to keep their distance, make sure the area is quiet, and keep dogs away.

Anyone who encounters a seal can contact the New England Aquarium Marine Animal Hotline at (617) 973-5247.

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