What if I find a stranded animal?

Note that it is natural for seals to spend days on shore. A seal on the beach is not necessarily in distress and is best left alone unless it bears some evidence of injury or illness. Click here to learn what to do and what not to do in the case of a stranding, and how to get in touch with us.

When is stranding season?

It depends on the species in question. Strandings occur throughout the year, although strandings in our region follow a general pattern.

Why do dolphins and whales strand?

The causes of strandings typically involve illness or injury, but there are exceptions. Strandings sometimes are simply the result of an animal being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Harbor porpoises, for example, can become trapped in a marsh during an outgoing tide. Heavy seas resulting from storms can leave animals exhausted, disoriented, or separated from their group. And regrettably, human interaction (by entanglement in fishing gear, ship strike, or gunshot) is sometimes the culprit.

What are the different species of seals found in New England waters?

As many as five species of seals are known to reside in New England waters. Harbor seals (Phoca vitulina) are by far the most common, and they are found here throughout the year. Gray seals (Halichoerus grypus) occupy a more limited area, primarily off Nantucket Island, Monomoy Island, and Chatham. During the winter months we also see increasing numbers of visiting harp (Phoca groenlandica) and hooded seals (Cystophora cristata) from the Canadian Maritime Provinces.

How much does it cost to rehabilitate a stranded porpoise, seal or sea turtle?

On average, the direct costs of rehabilitating a marine animal (involving medications, diagnostics, and food) are as follows:

  • Porpoise: $16,000
  • Seal: $1,400
  • Sea Turtle: $1,000

These costs don't include maintenance of life support systems, staff time, or transportation for collection and release of animals.

How can I help?

Find out how to help a stranded animal.