Mother and pup splash around in the shallows. Photo: E.Bjornsgard

If you have visited one of the many beaches in the past few weeks, you may have been lucky enough to see one of the many baby Harbor Seals who are just beginning their lives along our coast. Harbor seals are one of the marine mammals found along the Oregon Coast, and during the late spring, the females will give birth to babies called pups. These fluffy little friends are typically light colored, with darker spots, and can be seen either alone on the beach, or in groups with their mothers, depending on the time and location you find them. 

Mother checking in with her pup as they swim. When the pups get a little too far away from their mothers, they call out in order to find them. Photo: E. Bjornsgard

Baby Harbor Seals only nurse for three to four weeks, and then begin hunting for themselves (Marine Mammal Institute). They will remain on land while their mother sets off into the water to hunt. If you see a Harbor Seal alone on a beach, it is important to give it plenty of space. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, states that marine mammals should be viewed from at least 50 yards away, for thirty minutes or less. You can also contact NOAA or the Oregon State University Marine Mammal Institute if you see an animal that is injured or stranded.  

While these adorable Harbor Seals can be found on the sandy beaches, a prime place to safely view them is in Waldport, while enjoying a walk across the Alsea Bay bridge. Currently, there are several mother-pup pairs residing under the bridge that can be observed in their natural environment. Oftentimes, the mothers can be seen encouraging their pups to the water’s edge, taking short swims, and then hauling themselves back on to the sand for a rest. For best viewing, use a long-range camera or binoculars.  

A pup investigates a Great Blue Heron, who has come to forage in the shallow water. Photo: E.Bjornsgard

There are also plenty of other wildlife to view under the bridge. As the tide goes out, Great Blue Herons come to forage in the shallows. During a trip across the bridge, watch as they slowly move through the water. When they spot a fish, they use their beak with incredible precision and grab the fish. While there is not typically a lot of interaction between species, each is aware of the other.