At least two seal pups have been killed this year by well-meaning individuals attempting to 'rescue' them from what they assumed was distress or abandonment.

The latest incident - where a baby seal had to be euthanised after a woman took it home in a recyclable grocery bag - has prompted the US National Oceans and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to send a clear message to the public: leave wild animals the hell alone.

Of course, they worded it a little more politely than that, but the meaning is still the same.

"The best thing people can do to help marine mammals on the beach is to leave them alone, staying 100 yards [91 metres] away, if possible," the NOAA wrote in a news release, as reported by ABC News.

"Disturbing, feeding or attempting to move young seals or other marine mammals is illegal because it can stress the animals, interfere with their natural behaviour and cause adult seals to abandon their pups."

It sounds like common sense to most of us, but a lot of people see marine mammals on their own and automatically assume they need help - the fact that they're heart-breakingly adorable doesn't help, either.

Last year in California alone there were at least 60 cases reported where people either illegally picked up or fed marine mammals, Justin Greenman, NOAA's assistant stranding coordinator for the state, told Times Union. Some of those animals were re-released, while others died in care or had to be euthanised.

According to The Marine Mammal Centre in northern California, 18 marine mammals have already been brought into the centre this year because they'd been harassed or illegally picked up - and three have had to be put down as a result.

Most recently, a woman in Washington found a seal pup on its own last month and assumed it was in distress, so decided to pick it up in a recyclable shopping bag.

"She then took it home and realised she really didn't know what to do for it or how to take care of it," Michael Milstein, a public affairs officer for the NOAA, told ABC News. "She later called the local aquarium, Westport Aquarium, which is part of our network of volunteers."

By the time the aquarium got to her house, the seal pup was alive but "lethargic" and "like a sleeping human baby", which is a stark contrast to pups' usually alert and snappish behaviour.

NOAA officials wanted to release it back to the spot it was found, but it had to be euthanised.

In another incident this year, a couple in Oregon found a baby seal on the beach and - worried that it had been abandoned - they wrapped it in a beach towel, drove it home, and put it in their shower. Wildlife officials eventually returned the seal to the same beach, but it was found dead the next day.

Although these people presumably had the best intentions, the NOAA announcement serves as a reminder that wild animals are safer without our help. "The best chance they have to survive is to stay wild," NOAA Fisheries regional stranding coordinator, Kristin Wilkinson, told Times Union.

The new NOAA campaign, which they've called 'Share the Shore' also calls out people who take selfies with marine mammals, which is a more disturbing recent trend.

These creepy photos not only pose a risk to the wild animals, but the selfie-takers themselves, seeing as marine mammals can be unpredictable and dangerous when threatened (don't forget, selfies now kill more people than sharks).

So if you do come across a marine mammal that looks distressed, just call the experts to deal with it, and leave it alone, for everyone's sake.

And that goes for other wild animals too - hopefully we've all learnt a lesson from that Canadian man and his son who loaded a bison calf into the back of their car at Yellowstone National Park back in May (it also had to be put down).

You can check out the NOAA's full public service announcement below and, please, tell all your friends. We all mean well when it comes to animals, but they definitely don't need our help:

H/T: Gizmodo