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Taffy continues to come ashore almost daily, health declining

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For over 4 weeks now, seal pup Taffy has come ashore almost daily at West Seattle’s Alki Beach. Taffy’s schedule has become less predictable as her health declines. She is battling not only injury to her fore flippers, but has been showing signs of respiratory issues with increased coughing jags.

Unfortunately, chances for capture - and rehabilitation - have been challenging to say the least due to the limited access location, Taffy’s hyper-awareness of any and all activity around her, and the fact that she is almost always just a few feet at most from the water’s edge. An older pup, estimated about 8 months old, she is more worldly and much more aware of the dangers around her than newly-weaned pups (on their own at 4-6 weeks old) who will begin arriving to Seattle’s shoreline in August thru October. Taffy has been scared into the water numerous times at Alki.

Seal Sitters First Responders hope to have a better chance at capture as she becomes more lethargic. Today, Taffy rested a bit too long onshore at a very low tide and had an arduous trip across two sandbars, forcing her to use her fore flippers, to get back to open water.

Help protect marine mammals - attend a training

Join Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network! Volunteers are not only vital for the protection of seal pups and other marine mammals. Now in our 11th year, we also perform a public service by providing education about marine life and our fragile marine ecosystem to local residents and visitors from around the world.

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NEW VOLUNTEER TRAINING SPRING SESSION: SATURDAY, MAY 13, 2017
Seal Sitters MMSN holds several special trainings a year for those wanting to protect marine mammals along the shoreline of West Seattle and the Duwamish River.

We are a very active network and have volunteers who travel from around the area to participate. However, if you live out of the West Seattle area and would like to find a stranding network closer to where you live, click here.


*Please note:
Every stranding network requires their own unique training -
attending a Seal Sitters MMSN training does not qualify you to volunteer for networks in a differing location.

Unlike most marine mammal stranding networks, we encourage children to participate in Seal Sitters - supervised at all times, of course, by a parent or guardian. We are so proud of our amazing and dedicated volunteers who are on duty rain or shine - we hope you will join us!

A multi-media presentation will illustrate our educational work in the community and the unique challenges of protecting seals and other marine mammals in an urban environment. Included in the training is an overview of NOAA's West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network and biology and behavior of seals and other pinnipeds (due to time frame, supplementary sessions will include more marine mammals of Puget Sound).
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WHEN:
SATURDAY, MAY 13, 2017
TIME:
10am-12pm (doors open at 9:30am, training starts promptly at 10)
*please arrive early to receive paperwork

WHERE:
ALKI UCC
(*there is no church affiliation with Seal Sitters MMSN)
front meeting room
6115 SW Hinds St
West Seattle (map it here)

RSVP required to attend. (*please include full name and name/ages of children)

*PARENTS PLEASE NOTE: all children in attendance must be able to sit quietly through an approximate 2 hour training session with a short break.

For additional questions and info or to be placed on a contact list for future training opportunities, please email us.

Seal pup decides to mix things up

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After lulling Seal Sitters first responders into a sense of regularity over the past week, seal pup Taffy pulled a fast one and showed up early! Instead of hauling out during high tide yesterday, she came around 9am - a good four hours sooner than expected.

Once again, vigilant volunteer Nicole was the first to spot her, thru binoculars from her home well south of the tape perimeter, left standing to make beachcombers aware of Taffy’s daily comings and goings. Dashing to the beach, Nicole guarded the area while FRs Lynn and Robin checked the seal’s health from a distance with binocs and a long telephoto lens. They looked for bloody mucous from the mouth, seen on previous days and a sign of parasitic lung issues, and were relieved to see nothing unusual.

On a dark gray morning and in a heavy downpour, Taffy stretched her rear flippers and tail up in the air, circulating warmth thru her body. Like always, she was alert to our presence far down the sea wall. As she settled in on the fine sand beach, Volunteer Scheduler for the day Karin began checking the online calendar to see who was available to lend a hand for the day.

Unless absolutely necessary, the seal pup continues to avoid using either fore flipper. Taffy left the beach several times around 12:30 pm after a series of waves crashed over her with the incoming high tide, but returned within minutes each time. Finally, around 1pm, she gave up and swam out into the flat silver water - just as the sun came out and crowds of people (and off-leash dogs) started to appear. While Taffy was still onshore, a man with two off-leash pitbulls threw a ball for his dogs near the perimeter.

Though the pup never seems to get any real sleep or calm rest, she didn’t seem quite as anxious yesterday - likely due to the few people out in gloomy weather. Many thanks to Nicole, Colette, Owen, Sarah, Jonel and Dave for protecting Taffy. As usual, Karin did a great job lining up volunteers. Molly arrived just as Taffy was leaving, but stayed until 4pm, knitting in her car and keeping an eye on the beach just in case the pup returned for some more rest.

Now that Taffy has decided to mix things up as far as hauling out, it will be more of a challenge to keep her safe on the beach.

Seal pup Taffy as predictable as rain in Seattle

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Rain, rain, rain. Taffy, Taffy, Taffy. That pretty much sums up the last days for Seal Sitters volunteers, who continue to provide protection for the seal pup attempting to rest in West Seattle. First Responders are just about as bedraggled as our ragged yellow tape perimeter that has been taped and re-taped along Alki Beach and the adjacent Puget Sound seawall almost daily for going on two weeks now.

Taffy has been exhibiting signs of some health issues which we are monitoring closely. She is becoming thinner and is dehydrated. Because the active pup continues to be on high alert, very aware of any happenings around her, she gets no real rest. Taffy sticks close to the tideline, so capture poses challenges, but we are on standby should the opportunity - or need - presents itself. It is always in the best interest of a seal pup to remain in the wild whenever possible and avoid the stress of handling. If her health declines, she will require more time onshore.

While we cannot see any obvious wounds, the pup is reluctant to use either fore flipper. This makes her quite vulnerable when on land - even more so than the usual lack of mobility seals have out of the water. Unlike sea lions, they cannot rotate their hind flippers for locomotion and, instead, wriggle on shore in a caterpillar-like motion (click here to see a video of harbor seal locomotion). The danger of harassment, injury or worse from off-leash dogs at this beach continues to be a major concern at this location.

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Throughout yesterday morning, volunteers made regular jaunts to Alki, looking for the weaned pup at her small chosen corner of sandy beach, even though she typically hauls out after high tide. Around noon, just before high tide, volunteer Nicole (shown in green jacket in photo above, along with First Responder Lynn) peered thru binoculars, out her beachfront apartment window, and spotted Taffy flopping ashore. Nicole sent out a quick text “Taffy on beach” as she and partner Eric hopped on their bicycles and headed the seal pup’s way.

First Responders Lynn and Robin quickly arrived to tighten up the tape perimeter on the seawall and extend the tape on the open beach just south. A creature of habit, Taffy was barely visible, nestled next to her favorite rock below the wall.

Many thanks to volunteers Molly, David, Kate, Betsy, Eric, Nicole, Jonel, and Jennifer who, in two-hour shifts and often pouring rain, talked to passersby. Young Seal Sitters stewards Yma and Didi did an impromptu beach cleanup while on duty.

Taffy returned to the Sound shortly after 5pm and is expected to return today.

Seal pup becomes a regular on West Seattle beach

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Just after high tide this morning, the Seal Sitters hotline rang with numerous reports that seal pup Taffy was back at her small stretch of beach in West Seattle. The skittish pup has been a regular visitor to our shores since last Friday (that we know of). After being harassed and chased into the water several times last weekend, she sticks close to the water’s edge for a quick escape from harm.

Taffy appears to be favoring her left front foreflipper and does not use it to bear weight. That said, she continues to appear relatively healthy, with much better body weight and condition than the majority of weaned pups Seal Sitters protects.

The alert pup returned to Puget Sound around 1pm, after a paddle boarder approached too close to shore. This is a reminder to those of you who enjoy water sports: when you are out on the water along West Seattle shoreline, either by board or kayak, and notice yellow tape and cones on the beach or sea wall, please steer far away to prevent scaring a resting pup into the water. The same goes if you see seals and sea lions resting in more remote areas.

NOAA’s Marine Mammal Stranding Network wants seal pups to be able to get the rest they need for survival. Thanks to all the volunteers, including Seal Sitters young vols Stella and Ruby, who pitched in today and talked to an enchanted public, thrilled to be able to observe a pup in full view and so close, due to sidewalk and sea wall constraints.

We expect that Taffy will continue to use this area as long as she feels safe. It is our mission to keep her from harm. Please call Seal Sitters’ hotline at 206-906-SEAL (7325) should you see her - or any of her pup pals - onshore.
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