A dad propped his daughter on the back of a beached sea lion, pulled out his camera phone and snapped a picture.
A teenager dropped Cheetos on the sand next to a sick sea lion’s mouth.
A man, trying to get a selfie with another sea lion, crouched within a couple of inches of the animal’s face, pushed the animal into a more favorable position, then snapped the photo.
As record numbers of sick and dying young sea lions wash up on Orange County beaches in recent months, some humans have treated the animals like props. Or worse.
Stranded marine animals are not props for our selfies, and in most cases it is against federal laws to do what these people are doing.
What should you do if you see a marine mammal in distress or stranded
- IMMEDIATELY call the Florida Marine Mammal Stranding Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922) or the Florida Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvage Network at 904-573-3930
- DO NOT attempt to push the animal back into the water. That may seem like the correct thing to do for a marine animal, but you will actually cause further harm and make it more difficult for authorities to treat the animal.
- DO NOT touch the animal. In addition to being against federal law, you risk further harming the animal or yourself. A distressed animal may thrash about, and the “dead shark” may not be dead.
- DO try to set up a safe-distance perimeter of at least 50 yards to keep crowds (and noise) away from the animal to reduce trauma.
- DO use wet t-shirts/towels and/or umbrellas to keep the animal shaded and its skin wet. Stranded marine mammals are very susceptible to sunburn and overheating, even in cold weather. DO NOT apply sun screen or blocks to the animal’s skin.
- DO NOT allow water or sand to get into the animal’s blowhole to avoid suffocation. When wetting down the animal, be careful not to wet the blowhole area, particularly if the animal’s breathing is erratic.
- DO NOT cover the animal’s dorsael, pec, or fluke fins as this will prevent the animal from getting rid of excess heat.
Or better yet, download the app
The “Dolphin & Whale 911” app allows you to:
- Report dead, injured or entangled marine mammals by connecting you to the nearest stranding response hotline, so that trained responders and veterinarians can treat the animal.
- Send a photo of the marine mammal along with GPS coordinates to the marine mammal stranding network.
- Identify the kind of animal by providing an electronic field guide of marine mammals found in the Southeastern U.S.
- Help live and dead stranded marine mammals by providing you with a list of “do’s and don’ts” or tips on what to do when you find a live or dead stranded dolphin, whale, or seal.