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Two seal pups seek rest on our shores today

     
Seal Sitters volunteers responded to two pups resting on shore today - one in Ballard’s Golden Gardens Park and one on Alki Beach in West Seattle. Our volunteer Bev was walking the beach in Ballard when a beachcomber informed her that there was a pup on the beach. Along with another volunteer, she quickly established a perimeter with Protected Marine Mammal tape to alert the public to his presence. The pup (shown here) had a very healthy body weight for a weaned pup and was quite alert. Nicknamed Shanti, the laid-back pup returned to Puget Sound around 4pm, after working his way across a long stretch of beach at low tide. There were a number of off leash dogs on the beach. Please remember as you walk the beaches of Golden Gardens, keep your dog leashed at all times. Every year dogs cause injuries, often resulting in death, to vulnerable seal pups. Pups need to be able to rest undisturbed in order to maintain the strength to survive winter storms and dwindling food sources. Please give them the space to do so.

The pup on Alki Beach was ensconced behind logs and wood debris on the beach and unnoticed by the few people walking the beach today. This little spotted one, nicknamed Snowflake, snoozed all afternoon, most likely exhausted from spending a long night in the rough waters of Puget Sound. The pup returned to the Sound sometime after dark. We will be on the lookout for both of these pups tomorrow. Please be alert as you walk all beaches and call Seal Sitters if you come across a resting pup or other marine mammal using the shore.

Very sad news - volunteer passes away

Seal Sitters is terribly saddened to report that our volunteer, Jenny Vonckx, passed away Christmas Eve. Jenny had been battling a brain tumor; however, through it all, she was determined to continue protecting seal pups even as her pain became progressively worse. One of our most vivid memories of Jenny is one evening on Alki Beach: Jenny, all smiles, was wrapped up in a blanket on her camp chair, bathed in the pink afterglow of the sunset - prepared to stay for hours if necessary, looking after seal pup Spike who was still on the beach (thankfully, Spike returned to the Sound around 9pm). We were so privileged to share the beach with Jenny and extend our sympathies to her friends and family.

Jenny’s partner Rob has graciously provided the following information:
Jenny Vonckx died on December 24, 2010 at home in West Seattle surrounded by family. She died from a glioblastoma brain tumor she has been fighting since March, 2009. She was only 44. Jenny successfully fought another brain tumor 13 years ago. She was one of very few to live for more than a couple of years with this diagnosis and for that she considered herself fortunate.

When it was clear that little could be done, Jenny volunteered in November as the first patient to
undergo a cutting edge procedure in Los Angeles--the 1st person to ever have genetically engineered stem cells injected into her body. Jenny's expectation was not so much the hope of curing herself, but helping to advance research that one day might help others. Read More...

"Christmas seal" at Discovery Park

Seal Sitters responded to a seal pup on the beach by the Discovery Park lighthouse late Christmas afternoon. Since the nature of Seal Sitters’ work requires being on-call 7 days a week (and given that seal pups and other marine mammals don’t recognize holidays), we cannot thank enough these volunteers who gave up plans on Christmas Day to respond to the beach. And we want to thank every one of our volunteers for your hard work and commitment throughout the year.

Queen Latifah Lovefest

     
We had to share this video clip of Queen Latifah who continues to extend her haulout record, now exceeding 2 1/2 months. Two wonderful women stopped by to admire Latifah and chat with our first responder who was taking some health assessment photos and video. The audio is just too perfect and truly reflects the reaction of so many people when they see our little seal pups. We couldn’t resist posting this. Latifah, as always, is very alert and aware of all the vehicle noise from the street above and her admirers. She did manage, though, to settle down and take a nice nap on this relatively warm and dry morning.

Challenges ahead for weaned pups

The winter months pose many challenges for weaned pups struggling to survive. When our seal pup Doc was onshore for a day with blood around the mouth and some sustained coughing episodes, we sent video to WDFW’s marine mammal research biologist for input. We were afraid that the pup had possible lungworm issues and that was confirmed. As Dyanna Lambourn explains, lung worm infection is very common in pups this age.

Every single pup deals with parasites to some extent because the majority of worms (lungworms, tapeworms, roundworms, etc) come from the food they eat. Once ingested, the parasite settles into the host animal, grows and reproduces. Because these parasites are foreign to the body, the pup begins to build up an immune system to combat them. Read More...

Pups haul out despite nasty weather

     
The Seal Sitters hotline received calls on three pups today - one at Carkeek Park, one on the protected beach at Jack Block Park and one snuggled against the sea wall at Lincoln Park. The Lincoln Park pup (at left) was nicknamed Lina (harbor seal Latin name phoca vitulina) by a visitor from Connecticut - the father of our volunteer Trileigh, who were both enjoying a stroll in the park. Lina was literally at the edge of the sidewalk at Colman Pool. Our responder taped off the area, but the chocolate brown pup promptly returned to the Sound. She (or he) looked a bit thin, but moved quickly across the stretch of beach. We are waiting for a report on the Carkeek pup. The pup that was snoozing in the monsoon at JB Park looked plump enough (with possibly a small wound on his throat), but we could not get a photo of his face for id purposes. We are happy to report that here are several pups who are using Jack Block as a safe haven.

Flipperboy to the rescue!

Yesterday after seal pup Doc returned to the water, we stashed our cones, stakes and tape on the sea wall in case we needed them again early this morning. When our first responder did her early morning sweep, the cones were floating in the Sound. Apparently the high tide and waves crashed over the wall, sweeping away our precious materials. Able to retrieve only one cone and a long length of Protected Marine Mammal yellow tape, she later spotted a young boy snorkeling nearby. Our new superhero, David Dulaigh (aka Flipperboy), snagged the remaining cones, stakes and tape for us. Thanks to David and his mom. Our worst nightmare would be a seal pup washing ashore wrapped in “protective” tape! We always use biodegradable tape instead of plastic whenever we have concerns about incoming tides and no volunteers available to monitor the area. One of our white barricades with the NOAA Marine Mammal sign, however, is still missing. We have no idea if it, too, was swept out into the water. If you happen to come across it, please call our hotline 206-905-SEAL (7325).

"Hi, I'd like to report a seal pup under my garage"

     
You can imagine our dispatcher Larry’s reaction when the hotline received a phone report this morning of a pup sleeping under a garage on Alki Beach. Our first responder was called and, sure enough, found the little one sound asleep underneath the beachfront house. It was a very high tide this morning and the pup apparently took advantage of the only piece of beach he could find. He does not appear to be one of the pups we have watched over this season, however, we will be comparing photos to confirm that. There was some blood on his mouth and he had a bit of a cough. The pup returned to the Sound about 4pm this afternoon. As long as pups are able to come and go from the beach and forage for food, it is a good sign. We will be keeping an eye out for this pup so we can monitor his health. The owner of the property is an emergency room doctor, so this little pup has been dubbed Doc.

Packed house for volunteer training

Thanks to everyone who attended our winter training at Camp Long’s great meeting facility last night. As soon as the new volunteer information is entered into our database, we will be contacting you for beach duty. We’re excited that you have chosen to become Seal Sitters and help protect our marine mammals. Special thanks to Kristin Wilkinson for representing NOAA and the Pacific Northwest Marine Mammal Stranding Network. We are so grateful to naturalist Gretchen Graber and wish her all the best in her new “adventure”, but at a great loss for the City of Seattle educational programs.

Seal pups seek rest from stormy waters

     
Three seal pups visited our shores today - just when we thought things might be slowing down a bit. Early this morning we received a call from some alert City-side condo residents that a pup was on the beach near the water taxi. Unfortunately, the pup was scared back into the water before volunteers could respond. Shortly thereafter, our hotline received another call that a pup was on the steps leading to the beach on the Alki side. Our volunteer was surprised to find the pup at the top of the steps level with the sidewalk. We quickly established a perimeter with yellow Protected Marine Mammal tape and informational signs.

The pup was alert with good body weight. Examination of telephoto images revealed some green discharge around the eyes; however, all in all, the pup looked to be in good health. The pup was 15 steps above the water level. Apparently he came in at high tide and probably worked his way up a few steps to the top so he could rest undisturbed by surging waves. 
    
The pup, nicknamed Bonair, finally returned to the Sound at 8:03 tonight, much to the relief of cold and wet volunteers. To our dismay, when he finally decided to venture back to the water, he considered a high-dive from the top step and would have suffered severe injuries on the exposed rocks below. Thankfully, he opted for the safer route down the steps, but decided about midway to take the plunge. Our volunteer saw a big splash and was relieved to see that he landed in a shallow pool at the base of the stairs, missing the rocks, and disappeared into the dark waters. Bonair had at least a 14 hour rest today after most likely riding out the rough waters throughout the night. Thanks to the volunteers who protected him on this blustery and cold day!

Queen Latifah also made an appearance today, looking nice and plump and alert and back on her favorite rock. She has developed quite the fan club. All of our recent pups have picked highly visible spots to haul out. They are providing an unparalleled opportunity for people to observe and discover the joy of seal pups. To learn more about how tides affect haulout patterns, click here.





December training update

Thanks to everyone who has rsvp’d to attend our Thursday, December 9th training. We have now reached room capacity, but will offer another training session before pupping season begins in the summer. The event is scheduled for December 9th from 6:30 - 8:30pm at beautiful Camp Long in West Seattle, 5200 35th Ave SW (just south of Dawson- map it).

UPDATE 12/9/10 4am. We have had a couple of cancelations due to illness and may have a few spots open tonight. If you are interested in attending, rsvp and we will let you know if there is space.

Seals of all ages using safety of Jack Block Park

     
Jack Block Park has been a popular spot of late for seals of all ages, where they can rest in relative safety since all beaches are fenced off from the public. This morning a rather robust pup (for a weaner, that is) was lounging on the dock with a larger seal of undetermined age shown here. Late in the afternoon, Seal Sitters received a call on the hotline about a pup on the beach at Jack Block. Our responder observed a pup that had been both branded and tagged. Photos have been sent to WDFW for information regarding this pup. Additionally, we received a call about a seal pup at the boatramp, however, no pup was found. So, pinnipeds are still popping up out there! Remember that the older seals get, the more wary they become and thus are more likely to be scared back into the water. Since the dock is quite close to the walk, please keep this in mind and observe them quietly.

UPDATE: According to WDFW, the tagged pup was handled at a South Puget Sound rookery in September as part of a long-term research study. The blue tag signifies male and the pink “streamer” is used by researchers to determine id if only a partial number on the blue tag is visible. After analysis of the photo, the brand appears to be healing and Seal Sitters will monitor the pup as long as he remains on our shores. We will post additional info on this pup as we receive it.

Seal pup and heron enjoy the sunrise

     
During a routine check of the beaches and coves early this morning, our volunteer was pleasantly surprised by the sight of a great blue heron and a seal pup enjoying the warmth of the sun. It was a very trans-species morning since you can hear the barks of the sea lions out in the bay and the cawing of the crows - in addition to the drone of the trucks in the Port. Based on distinct markings, it is determined that the pup is not one that we have looked after this season. This pup has great body weight and no evidence of any health issues. It is reassuring that our pups seem to have found a good food source to help increase their chances of surviving the cold winter months.
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