Overview: Marine Mammal Strandings in Alaska
Alaskans and tourists are often active in the marine waters both along the shoreline and off the coast. While enjoying the marine environment you may come across a stranded marine mammal. Animals strand for a variety of reasons. It is important that you know, understand, and obey the laws and recommendations concerning stranded marine mammals, for their safety and your own. The best thing to do when you see a stranded animal is to report it promptly. Even dead animals can provide important information for scientists who study marine mammals and their environment.
How to Report a Marine Mammal Stranding
- For any stranding you can:
- Call the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward: 907-224-6395 or 1-888-774-7325 (24 hr)
- Report it online
- If the stranded animal is a whale, porpoise, seal, or sea lion you can contact the National Marine Fisheries Service Stranding Hotline: 1-877-925-7773 (24 hr)
- If the stranded animal is a sea otter, walrus, or polar bear you can contact the US Fish and Wildlife Service Marine Mammal Management Office in Anchorage: 1-800-362-5148 (business hours)
- You may also call the regional contact for your area. All responders are part of a network, so a call to any one of them will be forwarded on as appropriate. However, local contacts are not always available, so contact one of the main stranding numbers first.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Marine Mammal Strandings
- Keep other people and pets away from the stranded animal.
- Collect the following information:
- Date and time
- Geographic location of the animal (latitude and longitude if possible)
- Species, if known
- Is the animal dead or alive?
- Is the animal in the water or up on the beach?
- Is the animal alone or are there others?
- Are there any signs of injuries or abnormalities?
- Does the animal have any tags or identifying marks?
- Take photos if it can be done safely—that is, from a safe distance and without disturbing the animal.
- Report the stranding.
- Don’t touch, move, or disturb the animal. IT IS THE LAW.
- Marine mammals are protected by federal law.
- Alaska Natives are exempt from certain regulations. Learn more.
- Don’t push the animal back into the water.
- Don’t attempt to feed the animal.
Please remember SAFETY FIRST! Marine mammals are wild animals and getting too close puts you at risk for being bitten or injured. A marine mammal should not be approached closer than 100 yards. They can carry diseases that are transmittable to humans and pets, even when they are dead. In addition, live stranded marine mammals are likely already stressed, and your presence will increase that level of stress.
If you see a marine mammal being harassed call the National Marine Fisheries Service Nationwide Law Enforcement Hotline at 1-800-853-1964 (24 hr).
Identifying Marine Mammals
Who Manages Which Species?
Sea otters, walrus, and polar bears:
Whales, dolphins, porpoise, seals, and sea lions:
Where Does Your Report Go?
- Stranding summaries and newsletters from the Alaska Marine Mammals Stranding Network
- Samples provided to the University of Alaska Museum of the North