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Seal pup Sparkle, victim of human interference, taken to rehab

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Early this morning, newborn seal pup Sparkle was taken from a private beach and transported to PAWS Wildlife Center for stabilization and treatment. The pup, along with several adult seals and a yearling, had been harassed for a number of days as they tried to rest on an offshore platform near Alki Beach (post below). The other seals left the area and the tiny, vulnerable pup was left alone as a steady stream of people in power boats, canoes and kayaks broke federal law (the Marine Mammal Protection Act) by coming way too close to her, some even close enough to touch the raft.

First responders David and Eilene kept watch through their scope last evening, trying to determine if mom might return to nurse her pup, but Sparkle was still alone at 9pm. They saw her leave the raft and, luckily, a neighbor noticed the pup come ashore on the private beach, quickly alerting our volunteers. Under cover of darkness and incoming tide, the pup would be relatively safe for the night. At 5am, lead investigator Robin found Sparkle sound asleep in the same spot and began the process of arranging her rescue - a call to PAWS to ensure they had space, emailing health assessment photos to WDFW’s Dyanna Lambourn for consult and lining up volunteers Lynn and Lars to assist in the capture.

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This is a classic case of the drastic negative impact humans can have on wildlife. As explained in MANY prior posts, a harbor seal mom will abandon her pup if there is human disturbance, fleeing from danger. This poor pup, dropping weight each day because she could not forage on her own, was doomed to death by starvation because of this harassment. We appreciate the many concerned waterfront owners who kept us abreast of the violations by boaters and helped monitor Sparkle’s health.

Thankfully, the pup came ashore and we were able to capture and transport her. There is no guarantee the emaciated pup will survive - and because of people’s insensitivity and carelessness, even after months of fattening up in rehab, Sparkle will not have learned valuable life lessons from mom, such as how to forage successfully and interact with other seals.

PUPDATE 7:30pm
PAWS confirms that Sparkle is female and weighs a mere 6.6 kg. Despite a bloody umbilicus there appears to be no infection, but she has multiple punctures on her hind flippers. We will keep you updated about Sparkle’s progress.

9/9/13
Sparkle was euthanized at PAWS this morning. Veterinarian Dr. John Huckabee believes Sparkle’s immune system was not functioning properly, as she struggled the entire time she was there with digestive issues, ear and other infections and a heart murmur.
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