What to Do If You Find a Marine Mammal Ashore

Reporting marine mammal strandings promptly is the best way you can help stranded animals. Even dead animals provide a valuable opportunity for wildlife professionals to study marine mammals. Learn more about OMMSN research here .

Harbor seal pups found on beaches are usually not stranded. Please keep dogs and people far away. Learn more about pup season here.

To report an injured, stranded, or dead marine mammal, call:

Oregon (click to see network map for contact information)

Oregon State University Marine Mammal Institute

Areas served: all counties south of the City of Tillamook

Stranding Cell Phone: (541) 270-6830,  or email us at: stranding@oregonstate.edu


Portland State University / Seaside Aquarium

Areas served: all counties north of the City of Tillamook

Phone: (503) 738-6211

Washington (click to see network map for contact information)
California (click to see network contact information)


Marine mammals are protected by federal law. It is illegal for unauthorized persons to disturb, handle, or feed them.


Take digital photographs (learn more)

Remember, SAFETY FIRST! These are wild animals and they can bite! Many carry diseases that can be transmitted to humans or pets!


  • Keep people and dogs away.
  • Observe and report the following:
    1. Identification: Note color, size, vocalizations.
    2. General condition: Is the animal alive or dead, lethargic, injured, bleeding, entangled?
    3. Colored tags: Seals are tagged on hind flipper, sea lions on foreflipper (can you safely read the tag number?).
    4. Location: Be as precise as possible, making note of landmarks and beach accessibility.
    5. If you find a live cetacean (dolphin, porpoise, whale), provide supportive care:
      • Protect animal from harsh wind or sun
      • Dig trenches for pectoral flippers
      • Rinse any sand out of eyes
      • Keep the area quiet
      • Make sure the animal is not too hot or too cold. Keep live cetaceans cool and moist by covering them with wet towels (if available) or gently pouring water on them. But be very careful not to cover or pour water down the blowhole (on top of the head). Report strandings of live cetaceans IMMEDIATELY.


  • move, touch, or disturb the animal
  • drive animals back into the water
  • pour water on a seal or sea lion
  • try to feed the animal
Some poorly understood facts about pinnipeds:
  • They are amphibious, at home on land as well as in water
  • They don’t need to remain wet
  • They do need to rest on land
  • They tend to move awkwardly on land
  • They are capable of extended periods of fasting
  • They should be left alone

It is important to keep in mind:

  • Human and domestic animal contact with marine mammals is only likely to cause stress, which can have detrimental health effects
  • Animals die through natural selection; it is a normal process
  • Euthanasia is sometimes an option to relieve animal suffering
  • Adverse weather and tidal conditions can be challenging and dangerous; responders should always prioritize human safety first
  • Marine mammals spark strong human emotions, potentially complicating effective stranding response
  • We all need to better educate the general public to share the shore with marine mammals