WEIRD NEWS
08/31/2015 11:12 am ET Updated Sep 02, 2015

Is There Anything Cuter Than A Seal Getting A Belly Rub?

Answer: No. (But don't try this at home.)
More, please.
YouTube/Gary Grayson
More, please.

Sometimes there's nothing like a gray seal to brighten a gray day.

A 2014 video of a diver giving a belly rub to an appreciative seal is seeing regained popularity thanks to a writeup this weekend in The Dodo. The underwater footage shows diver Gary Grayson encountering an Atlantic gray seal in Great Britain’s Scilly Isles, according the video’s description on YouTube.

The friendly pinniped swims right up to Grayson, stroking the man with its flippers before rolling over to expose his belly. The diver responds how just about any person would when presented with such an adorable scene -- he scratches the seal’s belly.

Though the video is adorable, scuba divers should not try this on their own. The video was shot in any area where seals have become very accustomed to human beings, which is not the case in most places.

"[The seal] is part of a colony where divers dive on a regular basis and so the seals have become, obviously, very used to people and allow them very close," Ally McMillan, director of Seal Rescue Ireland, located in County Wexford, Ireland, told The Huffington Post in an email. "Not all seals are like this, and if approached could well cause harm if they feel threatened due to their large size and very sharp teeth."

"Wildlife are better off being left wild," she added.

On top of that, it can be dangerous for seals to get too used to contact with humans, said Laura Sherr, public relations specialist for California-based Marine Mammal Center, a nonprofit veterinary research hospital focused on ocean mammals.
 
"About 15 percent of our patients come in because of the direct result of human interaction -- whether it's a gunshot wound, illegal pick-ups, entanglements, etc. -- and so here at The Marine Mammal Center we are very invested in ensuring that wild animals stay wild," Sherr said. 
 
Sherr also noted that bites aren’t the only danger of human-seal interactions -- both species can transmit diseases to one another.  
 
Interacting with a seal in this way would actually be illegal under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, Sherr said. However, the activity is not illegal in the Scilly Isles, according to John Gargett, communications manager for the UK's Marine Management Organisation.
 
Gargett said that while England and Wales have restrictions on harming or killing seals,  simply disturbing them is not a criminal offense. He added that there were also no particular measures in the Isles of Scilly that would forbid the interaction seen in the video. 
 

Still, McMillan acknowledged that the video is pretty cute.

"It really shows how sweet, curious and dog-like [seals] are," she said.

She noted that in some areas, the seal’s image desperately needs an overhaul.

"So many communities dislike seals and demonize them, calling them 'rats of the sea' or vermin, simply because they eat fish," she said. "Many fishing communities do not like them, and illegally kill them thinking them as competition for the fish."

McMillan also pointed out that it's been tough finding government support and adequate funding to keep Seal Rescue Ireland running, and she fears the nonprofit -- which has worked to rehabilitate seal pups and other wildlife in need for around four years -- will likely be closing down at the end of the year.

"[We’re] praying for a miracle before the inevitable happens," she said.

Contact the author of this article at Hilary.Hanson@huffingtonpost.com

This article has been updated to include statements from Laura Sherr and John Gargett.

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that the Marine Mammal Center was based in New Jersey. It's located in California.

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