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Marine mammal stranding

Marine Mammal Research Program staff are members of the Northwest Marine Mammal Stranding Network. This network is made up of individuals from Oregon State University, University of Oregon, Portland State University, and other state agencies including Oregon State Parks, and Oregon State Police and is coordinated by the National Marine Fisheries Service, Northwest Region, Seattle, WA.

What to do if you find a stranded marine mammal on the beach


Stranded Harbor Seal Pup
- Photo by Kathy Munsel -

If you find a stranded marine mammal (live or dead, pinniped or cetacean) on the beach, do not touch or move the animal. Do not try to feed or put water on the animal. Please call 1-800-452-7888. This number is the Oregon State Police reporting line and they will contact the stranding network responder in your area. Information you need to provide is as follows: date and time observed; exact location; condition of animal (alive, dead, injured); number of animals involved; description (color, size, type of animal); any tags or marks; your name and contact phone number.

Response to stranded animals varies depending on the type of animal. Seals and sea lions come to shore to rest daily, they do not need to be in the water or be wet to survive. Most seals and sea lions are not stranded but are only resting if they are feeling ill or tired. Disturbance by well meaning people can cause additional stress to the animal. Never remove an animal from the beach; you or the animal may be injured and it is against the law. Reasons seals and sea lions “strand” range from being ill or injured, molting (shedding their hair), or just resting. Seals often leave their newborn pups on the beach to sleep while they go offshore to feed. Although seal pups can swim at birth they are often not strong enough to swim for extended periods of time. Do not remove seal pups from the beach!

Cetaceans (whales and dolphins) may receive a higher level of stranding response. If you find a live or dead cetacean on the beach you should immediately call to report the stranding. Responders will act as quickly as possible to assess the situation and attempt to save any live animals and recover carcasses of small cetaceans. Unfortunately, in most cases when cetaceans strand returning them to the water is difficult. Survival of stranded cetaceans is low. Larger animals such as dolphins and porpoise are returned to the water where they often will strand again for unknown reasons. Live stranded whales, in most cases, are not successfully returned to the water before dying. Whale strandings in Oregon are not common.

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