They may look cute or in distress, but seals on or near land around P.E.I. should be left alone, said a group that looks out for the welfare of marine animals in the region. 

"Usually it is best to leave them alone and give them space," said Andrew Reid, response coordinator with the Halifax-based Marine Animal Response Society.

seal looks happy and healthy

See a seal? 'Leave them alone and give them space,' says the Marine Animal Response Society. (Submitted by the Marine Animal Response Society )

It's pupping season for grey seals so people may see more of them along the shore or on the ice, said Reid.

Even if people are worried the seals may be in trouble, he advises, it's best to leave them alone.

"They have to rest on shore or on ice floes. And if there is concern, people are always more than welcome to take a photograph and the position and they can forward that to us." 

The group will then assess from the photos whether the animal looks healthy or not.

Reid said they typically ask the public to send pictures of the seal's face, as well as a picture from the side showing the profile of the body so they can tell if the animal is malnourished, dehydrated or may have an infection.

Malnourished seal

The Marine Animal Response Society says this seal appears to be malnourished. (Submitted by Marine Animal Response Society)

If it appears to be an unhealthy animal, the society tries to coordinate with veterinarians to have it examined.

It's not a good idea to force seal pups back into the water, Reid said. 

"They are out of the water for a reason, they are resting, they are not the best swimmers when they are that young."

The society works with the Atlantic Veterinary College in Charlottetown, P.E.I. as well as federal fisheries officials on reports of seals in distress.

If ice conditions aren't good this year — if the ice is not thick enough to hold the seals and pups — people may see more seals on land, said Reid.

If you see a seal obstructing traffic, Reid advises contacting the RCMP or the society, who may arrange to have it moved.