Seals regularly come ashore to rest, but people often assume that a beached seal is in distress. Some seals can in fact spend many days ashore at a time, and they do not need to stay wet.
This is especially true of the so-called "ice seals" --- harp and hooded seals --- who often arrive on our shores exhausted after a migration of thousands of miles at sea. Once sufficiently rested, these animals often will return to the water unassisted.Sometimes, though, an apparently "resting" seal is hiding the symptoms of a more serious health condition. Like all wild animals, seals mask the signs of illness in order to avoid detection by predators. It often takes a patient and keen eye to observe a seal for clinical signs of illness, which becomes all the more complicated by stress induced by people and dogs. It's important to observe seals without affecting their behavior in order to get an accurate assessment of its health status.
Much of our work involves determining when an animal really needs our help. We must be careful not to assume a seal is stranded simply because it's ashore.
Unnecessarily handling a resting seal may in fact cause more harm than good by inducing stress related health problems. Moreover, attempts to feed or return resting seals to the water will often exacerbate the animal's exhaustion.