Seals are often sighted along Western Australia’s coastline and estuaries. As some seal populations increase and as more people use coastal parts of the State, reports of sick or injured seals may also increase. Fortunately, most of these turn out to be false alarms and in most cases, seals do not need human intervention.  

Some aspects of seal behaviour can make us think they are injured when they are not. Seals recover quickly from most injuries as most wounds are generally superficial and will heal by themselves.

Seal - Photo Matt Swan Parks and Wildife Service

Seal - Photo Matt Swan Parks and Wildife Service

It is important to note that seals naturally ‘haul out’ or come onto land to rest, moult and recuperate.

Seal pups die from natural causes each year. More than 10 per cent die in the first two months, and more seals die when learning to hunt, from sickness and old age. In these cases, it’s best not to intervene and instead, and let nature take its course.

Entangled Seal
Entangled Seal

When does a seal need your help?

This seal Wise Guide will help you recognise normal seal behaviour when human intervention is not required, and when and how you should report a sick or injured animal.

How do I report a sick or injured seal?

Consult the Seal Wise Guide below to confirm if the seal needs assistance.
If so, note the following information, before calling the Wildcare Helpline on 9474 9055.

Information to include:

  • type of injury (entanglement/bite/open wound, etc.)
  • seal’s location (beach name including cross streets/GPS)
  • if possible, take a photo of the animal for Wildlife officers. Remember not to approach the animal, turn the flash off and zoom in from a distance. Please do not use drones to capture images.
wildcare helpline

If you are unsure about a seal’s condition, or it is seriously injured or entangled, call the Wildcare Helpline.

Enjoy seals from a distance

Seals have sharp teeth, can be aggressive when threatened and can move quickly over short distances. For your safety and the animal’s, it is recommended to stay at least 30m away. It is important not to approach, even if you think it is injured as it may scare the animal into the water, increase their stress levels and decrease their chance of survival if injured. 

Seal Wise Guide
DescriptionCommon questionsSeal behaviourShould I report this?AdviceWhat happens next?
Seal on the beach There is a seal on the beach, is it dead? It's not moving much, is it injured? Why isn't the seal in the water? Seals spend a great deal of time out of water resting.  This is normal. Some species such as the Southern Elephant Seal, spend significant time moulting (shedding fur) on land and should be left undisturbed during this process. They may stay in the area for several days without movement. NO Leave alone and keep pets away.  
Holding a flipper in the air  'Flipper Sailing' There is a seal in the water with its flipper in the air, is it injured? Is it waving for help? Seals often raise a flipper in the air when lying on land or swimming. This is a natural behaviour they use to thermoregulate (keep cool or warm up). People sometimes mistake this for a seal in distress. NO Leave alone and keep pets away.  
Seal curled up in a ball ‘flipper sailing’ at Henderson WA There is a seal that looks like it is entangled as it isn't putting its tail down. Does it need help? There is a seal with what looks like a broken back swimming near the jetty. Does it need help? Seals put their rear flippers up and their front flipper around and grab that front flipper to ‘sail’, another form of thermoregulating.
They can stay like this for up to an hour.
NO Leave alone and keep pets away.  
Poor body condition There is a seal with ribs/hip bones showing, what should I do? Seals may suffer from poor health or body condition due to sickness, old age, dehydration or lack of food.  YES Do not approach and call the Wildcare Helpline Wildlife Officers will assess and check the animal.
Wound There is a small wound on a seal, what should I do? Seals often fight with each other over territory or a mate, resulting in minor cuts or bites. These wounds normally heal quickly and don’t need human help. NO Leave alone and keep pets away.  
Injury There is a seal with a large injury, what should I do? Seals are sometimes seriously injured through boat collisions, shark bites or may be deliberately hurt by people. Wounds can look severe, but heal quickly. YES Do not approach and call the Wildcare Helpline Wildlife Officers will assess the animal’s condition and seek expert advice e.g. Perth Zoo, Vet as needed.
Entanglement There is a seal entangled with line or fishing hooks or rope, what should I do? Seals occasionally become entangled in netting or other foreign objects e.g. fishing line or hooks. Entangled seals need help as soon as possible. YES Do not approach and call the Wildcare Helpline Wildlife Officers will assess the animal.
Eye injuries, infections and secretions There is a seal with weepy eyes and looks like it is crying. Is it injured? Seals continuously secrete tears to lubricate their eyes. NO Leave alone and keep pets away.  
  There is a seal with an eye problem, what should I do? Eye injuries and infections can affect a seal's ability to hunt. If the eye is cloudy or is heavily secreting mucous or blood, the seal may need help. The elephant seal's (pictured) eye cleared up within two weeks naturally. No intervention was needed. YES Leave alone. Do not approach and call the Wildcare Helpline Wildlife Officers will assess the animal’s condition and seek expert advice e.g. Perth Zoo, Vet as needed.
Parasites There is a seal with a hook in its nose or mouth, can you come and help? Seals often have parasites that may be visible through the mouth or nose and may look like a foreign object. YES Do not approach and call the Wildcare Helpline  
Healthy pup on a beach or rocks There is a small seal by itself, what should I do? It’s been washed up, Seals don’t sit on rocks. Does it need help to get down? Seal pups spend a short time with their mothers. After that they are on their own.
During this period, juveniles can often be found resting on our beaches. Well-meaning people have picked up young seals thinking they are abandoned. Please don’t touch them as it causes unnecessary stress.
NO Leave alone and keep pets away.  
Healthy juvenile on a beach or rocks There is a baby seal by itself that looks to be in poor condition, what should I do? No one is helping the poor baby.  I have been pouring water over the seal to keep it wet.  Should I pick up the baby seal and take it to a Vet? Seal pups are commonly left on their own for several days while their mothers are feeding at sea. Such pups should be LEFT ALONE unless injured. The mother may be nearby and your presence may cause it to abandon the pup. These animals should be LEFT ALONE to recover and return to their colonies.
Please refrain from pouring water on them.
NO Leave alone and keep pets away.  
Seal in a busy location There is a seal on the boat ramp, what should I do? Seals sometimes come ashore at places that are not safe. If you find a seal on a road, busy location etc. where its safety may be at risk, do not attempt to move the animal and call Wildcare. YES Leave alone. Do not approach and call the Wildcare Helpline Wildlife officers occasionally erect signs or keep a watch to protect the seal and the public.

Be Seal Wise and keep seals safe

It’s illegal to harass and disturb marine mammals. If you think the animal requires assistance, contact the Wildcare Helpline and do not interact with the animal.

  • Dog on a leash

    Dogs and seals don't mix

    If a seal feels threatened, it may attack your dog. Some diseases may also be transferred between dogs and seals. If you come across a seal when walking your dog, put the dog on a leash and keep at least 50 metres away. If an unleashed dog is causing a problem, contact your local Ranger for assistance.

  • Boat

    Go slow for those below

    When boating, go slow especially over seagrass beds, shallow areas and in channels where marine wildlife feed. If a seal approaches, slow down to avoid injury.

  • Do not feed

    Let seals feed themselves

    Feeding seals may attract them to high risk areas where they may become entangled in fishing hooks and line. This can result in a lost ability to hunt for themselves, transference of disease and cause seals to become aggressive and harass people for food.

  • Do not litter

    Take your rubbish home

    Fishing lines, hooks, nets and rubbish can cause injuries to seals. Pull your fishing line in until seals have left and put your rubbish in a bin. Look out for our specially designed fishing line bins at various locations around the state.

For more tips and information about our marine wildlife and environments, please visit:

wildcarehelpline  download on the app store  download google play

With thanks to the Victorian Government Department of Sustainability and Environment for their permission to use sections of their ‘Seals and People’ brochure. Photos and information supplied by Parks and Wildlife service staff unless otherwise credited.