What should you do when you see an injured, stranded or deceased marine mammal or sea turtle?
Answer: Call Marine Mammals of Maine
Marine Mammals of Maine (MMoME) is a non-profit organization federally permitted to respond to live and dead marine mammals and sea turtles that are stranded between Kittery and Rockland, Maine. They are experts on our local sea turtles and marine mammals, which include seals, porpoises, dolphins and whales. They operate a 24/7 marine mammal and sea turtle reporting hotline — 1-800-532-9551 — and respond to nearly 300 individual animals annually. Be sure to save this number in your phone so that you can report any live or dead marine mammals or sea turtles when out on the Trail!
Below is some guidance on what to do when you encounter a stranded marine mammal or sea turtle in Maine, as well as some interesting facts about our more common local species.
What to do when you encounter a live or dead marine mammal or sea turtle that is stranded:
- Stay a safe distance of 150 feet back from all live/deceased marine mammals, even if it appears sick or injured
- Immediately report all live/deceased, stranded marine mammals and sea turtles to the reporting hotline: 1-800-532-9551
- Take photos of the animal from a safe distance (150 feet away or further if the animal reacts to your presence) that can be shared with MMoME
- Let others in the vicinity know to stay back and keep dogs leashed
- Do not interact with the animal if it is in the water, or attempt to bring it on your boat
- Do not touch, move, feed, or coax a stranded animal into or out of the water
- If you find an entangled animal, resist the urge to disentangle it yourself. Take photos and an accurate location (latitude/longitude) and report it to the hotline
- To report strandings outside of Maine or to find your local stranding organization, visit www.fisheries.noaa.gov/report
Important facts about Maine’s marine mammals:
- Marine mammals are federally protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which prohibits hunting, capturing, killing, or harassing marine mammals in the United States. Harassment includes approaching within 150 feet, touching, moving, feeding, returning to, or removing the animal from the water
- Seals are only semi-aquatic. They do not need to be wet and can be dry indefinitely
- Unlike seals, which regularly come out of the water, whales, dolphins and porpoise are fully aquatic and never naturally occur on dry land
- Harbor seals pup from late April through June, and nurse for about one month before weaning
- It is normal to see dependent pups alone on the shore or swimming while their mom is foraging. She will return for her pup if it is safe
- Seals are known for masking stress. They may not outwardly appear to be impacted by your presence, but they often are
- Marine animal encounters can be exciting experiences that you’ll remember forever. Please safely share the shore with local wildlife and educate others to make it a positive experience for all
Founded in 2011, Marine Mammals of Maine responds to live and dead marine mammal and sea turtle strandings across approximately 2,500 miles of Maine’s coastline, including islands. It operates a triage and rehab center for seals located in Brunswick, Maine, which is the only marine mammal triage facility on the east coast and one of only two rehab centers in the northeast accepting seal patients. MMoME’s mission also includes marine mammal and sea turtle education, conservation and research to better understand these species and their environment. They rely on private and public funding and donations to carry out this critical work.