A seal pup had to be euthanised after a woman picked the animal up from the beach and carried him home in a carrier bag.
The woman took the seal home in a tote bag after seeing him on a beach near Westport, Washington.
But she later contacted her local aquarium when she realised she did not know how to take care of the animal.
"She then took it home and realised she really didn't know what to do for it or how to take care of it," National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries (NOAA) public affairs officer Michael Milstein told ABC News.
"She later called the local aquarium, Westport Aquarium, which is part of our network of volunteers."
The aquarium's director said that when he saw the seal the animal was "alive but extremely lethargic".
The incident happened in May but was only brought to light this week.
It has led animal welfare experts to urge people not to touch or pick up pups that come up on beaches and shorelines to rest.
At least five times this season, well-meaning people have illegally picked up seal pups in Oregon and Washington thinking they were abandoned or needed help, but that interference ultimately resulted in two deaths, the Associated Press reports.
It is an ongoing problem as well-meaning people believe they are helping the animals when in reality they can end up causing stress or harm to them instead.
In California last year, there were at least 60 cases where people either illegally picked up or fed marine mammals, said Justin Greenman, NOAA's assistant stranding coordinator for the state. Some of those animals were re-released; others died in care or had to be euthanized.
Selfies with seals or sea lions are also a growing problem, he added.
People's impulse is to rush in and help, but it's better to let nature run its course, Wilkinson said. The risk in taking baby seals off the beach is that adult seals may abandon them. "The best chance they have to survive is to stay wild," she said.
Last week, a pup was handled so extensively at a beach park that wildlife responders determined the constant human interaction permanently separated the pup from its mother.
People held the pup in their laps, cuddled it and pet the animal for many hours, she added. That seal was eventually taken to a rehabilitation facility.
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