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NOAA: Please don't take selfies with the seals

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has asked enthusiastic beachgoers to stay away from the wildlife.

Harbor seal mother and baby.

Courtesy of Dr. Brandon Southall, NMFS/OPR

There are few things in this world more adorable than a baby seal, but beachgoers will have to restrain their enthusiasm. It's currently the season for seal birth in New England, and humans getting too close could disrupt colonies or even get harmed by protective parents.

In a post to the NOAA website, the administration has asked visitors not to take selfies with the wildlife.

"As tempting as it might be to get that perfect shot of yourself or your child with an adorable seal pup, please do the right thing and leave the seal pup alone," the NOAA wrote.

"Getting too close to a wild animal puts you -- and the animal -- at risk. Seals have powerful jaws, and can leave a lasting impression. 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."

The post also cautioned not to assume a pup has been abandoned and try to help. Seal mums can leave their babies alone for up to 24 hours while she hunts. Odds are that the pup is safe, but if a human approaches and the mother is nearby, she may think the human is a threat and attack, or she may abandon the baby.

As in the case of a baby bison tourists recently "helped" at Yellowstone National Park by putting it in a car, human interference can cause a lot more harm than good. The bison's mother rejected the baby, since it smelled wrong, and it eventually had to be euthanised. Humans have also harmed marine life by lifting it out of the water for selfies.

NOAA advised that visitors should stay at least 45 metres (150 feet) from the seals at all times. And, in fact, approaching them can be considered illegal harassment under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972.

To report an animal that needs help, or someone harassing a seal, the NOAA asked that visitors to New England beaches call its hotlines, listed in the NOAA website post.