NEW YORK (FOX 5 NEWS) - Seal pupping season is underway in the northeast United States. That means the federal government wants you to stay away from seals and other marine animals. And that includes trying to take selfies with them. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says keeping your distance is for the animals' safety -- and yours.
"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," NOAA says on its website. "When you get too close to a wild animal, you risk stressing or threatening it, and stressed animals are much more likely to act unpredictably."
In other words, yes, a seal could attack and maul you.
NOAA officials also want you to realize that just because seal pups might be alone, that doesn't mean they need help or that their mothers aren't watching from close by.
"It might only take a few seconds for you to snap the photo, but the mother may abandon her pup if she feels threatened," NOAA says. "For the seal pup, the consequences can be devastating."
The scientific agency says that if you see a seal pup, keep your distance even if you think it needs help.
"The best thing you can do if you want to help is keep away from the animal and keep your pets away from it, so the mother has a chance to return," says Mendy Garron, an official with the NOAA Fisheries Greater Atlantic Region.
NOAA is also reminding people that getting too close to a marine mammal can be considered harassment, which is actually against the law. Under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, "any act of pursuit, torment, or annoyance" which has the potential to injure or disturb a marine animal is harassment.
So do everyone a favor and stay away. Take that photo from a distance.
NOAA released these five tips for viewing marine wildlife safely:
1. View from a safe distance (and that differs depending on species and location)
2. Keep your snacks to yourself
3. Keep pets away from wildlife
4. Help us help wildlife in distress
5. Know before you go
If you really think an animal is in danger or has been stranded, you can call the NOAA Fisheries Northeast Regional 24-hour hotline 866-755-NOAA (6622). And if you see someone harassing a marine mammal, call the Office of Law Enforcement at 800-853-1964.