In another devastating case of humans interfering with wildlife, a harbor seal pup had to be euthanized in Washington state after a woman carried it off the beach in a reusable shopping bag. The woman saw the pup on a beach near Westport and mistakenly believed it had been abandoned, so she took it home with her. Then she "realized she really didn't know what to do for it or how to take care of it," NOAA's public affairs officer tells ABC News. She called a local aquarium, and the director came out to her house to find the pup on the woman's deck, "alive but extremely lethargic," the director tells ABC. The director and officials from the state's Department of Fish and Wildlife planned to bring the pup back to the beach it came from, but it was "so unresponsive, and so much time had gone by," that they decided to euthanize it, the director says.
A regional stranding coordinator for NOAA says the seal likely would not have survived due to the condition it was in. The incident happened last month, but only got attention this week after NOAA put out a press release warning local residents to leave marine mammals alone, in which the agency mentioned an "alarming spate" of incidents like this one. At least five times recently in Washington and Oregon, people have illegally taken harbor seal pups off a beach, the Times Standard reports. Another one of those pups also died after a couple found it on the beach in Garibaldi, Oregon, and believed it had been abandoned. They wrapped it in a beach towel and took it home, where they put it in the shower, a NOAA official says. Wildlife officials returned the pup to the beach where it had been found, but it was found dead the following day. (Read more seal pups stories.)