<div id="myExtraContent1"> </div>
<div id="myExtraContent5"> </div>

Responders challenged to keep seals safe on city beaches

This morning, Seal Sitters (SSMMSN) First Responder Lynn mused, “I wonder where Wonder the seal will turn up next?” For the past week, the yearling who is struggling with health issues had come ashore to rest each day onshore along West Seattle’s Beach Drive. On Sunday, Wonder ran Lynn ragged, first appearing on a quiet private beach, then a more active public beach, and last - but not least - in the heart of crowded, noisy Alki Beach.

SSMMSN Hotline Operator Larry called shortly after 9am. Waterfront homeowner Jarrett had reported a pup and gave Lynn access to his private property. Wonder was sleeping above high tide line, practically at the patio steps. Volunteer Kate joined Lynn, keeping a low profile since any casual beachgoers would not notice the pup. When a neighbor’s dog startled Wonder awake, he/she made a beeline for the water about 70’ away, but stopped at the edge. Brand new Seal Sitter (and Brazilian biologist) Jaqueline arrived and helped put up signs on either side and watched for people walking the beach. At noon, just as Karen and Kelsey came for their shift, the seal abruptly went in and swam east.

     wonder-alki-hutchinson
Before Lynn could get too comfy at home, another call came in around 1pm - a “pup” at the eastern end of Alki Beach near 53rd. Lynn lugged stakes and a signboard which she tossed over the seawall. Three eager people - reporting party Al, Melanie and Ray - grabbed the materials and very quickly put up a perimeter. Then they settled back onto the beach and watched Wonder snooze at the water’s edge.

A group on the sand was speaking Spanish and the woman exclaimed, “Una foca bebe!” But soon after, Wonder woke and decided to return to the cold waters of Puget Sound. Ray and Al took down the perimeter and Lynn wound her way back home.

Around 4pm, the hotline was hit with a barrage of calls that Wonder was back. This time, the yearling emerged from the vivid blue water onto the sand and into the very middle of a throng of sunbathers, picnickers and paddlers near 58th, across from restaurants and bicycle rentals. Unable to park and unload stranding materials due to immense crowds and traffic, Lynn had to hike down Admiral hill. When she arrived, several people were trying valiantly to keep others back, but the young seal was surrounded by a crowd standing only 20 feet away. Walking around Wonder, Lynn dropped stakes on the ground at intervals. A fantastic woman from Bremerton named Robin stepped up to volunteer, putting up the stakes where she found them and helped stretch the tape. Between the two of them, a small, but effective barrier went up as sympathetic beachgoers gathered up their towels and children and vacated the space (photo above). Wonder seemed oblivious to the action, even as an errant football landed inside the small buffer zone. The seal’s lack of concern about bystanders is worrisome and likely due to health issues.

First Responders David and Eilene arrived to help. Volunteer Scheduler Jonel began making calls and, despite the impossible parking situation, Jen and Madison, Rebecca and Lina, Karen and Victoria all appeared to help with crowd contol. And Jonel herself came, multi-tasking and using her cell phone to contact volunteers while straightening a wave-threatened stake. Youngsters Lina and Madison were terrific - handing out stickers, helping with the perimeter and talking to visitors.

As the water rose, Wonder actually moved higher up on the beach, straight towards the crowd. The yellow tape was moved incrementally whenever space allowed. Finally, Wonder decided to go back in at 8:20pm and Seal Sitters gladly packed up and left. Many, many thanks to everyone involved on a very challenging day. Special thanks to Lynn who cheerfully perservered before crashing for the evening. An awesome job by all!
<div id="myExtraContent7"> </div>
<div id="myExtraContent8"> </div>