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Pup keeps volunteers on high alert today

     
A silken seal pup nicknamed JuYoung (in honor of a beautiful young woman from South Korea) kept our volunteers hopping today. Our hotline received a call around 9 am that there was a pup on the beach by the Statue of Liberty. The pup was quite alert and close to the sea wall as the winds whipped the incoming tide high onto the beach. SS established a perimeter (or at least attempted to as high winds repeatedly blew down our barricades and tape), but the pup returned to the Sound about 10 am. Approximately 1 pm this afternoon, the pup reappeared just north of the Bathhouse and stayed until a juvenile sea gull, insistent on pecking at his rear flippers, pestered him into returning to the water. It was windy and bitter cold duty for our volunteers as we continued to keep a watch out for the pup until late afternoon. If you walk the beach in the morning and see this pup (who appeared to be quite healthy), please call our hotline so we can help this little one get some rest on a very popular stretch of beach.

Seal pup recovered from Port of Seattle property

We are sad to report that the seal pup SS volunteers watched over Sunday night at Don Armeni boat ramp was found dead on the inaccessible, secured East beach at Jack Block Park early this morning. The pup (who was thin, but exhibited no overt signs of illness) had been observed over the past few days hauled out in different locations within the park. We would like to give special thanks to Port of Seattle Police officer Julia Tanga, T5 security officer Charles and terminal manager Kelly of Eagle Marine Services for their help today in allowing our first responder access to recover the body for necropsy. The necropsies performed by WDFW’s marine mammal biologist are critical in monitoring the health of our seal and sea lion population. We will keep you updated with the necropsy results, so please check back.

     
While it seems like lately we having our fair share of sad news, Seal Sitters would like to remind everyone that we have had some very fat, happy blubberballs this year - our celebrities Pebbles, ET and Queen Latifah - and a number of other pups who have shared our shore. And we shouldn’t forget our big success story of the season - the rehabilitation and release of Storm. Our seal pups have been unusually healthy this year as opposed to years past. As we know, pups only have a 50% chance of surviving that first year of life, so it’s critical that we give them the best chance possible to thrive. While our volunteers do have some terribly sad days, the joys of our work far outweigh the sorrows. Winter may be a challenging time, but rest assured we do have some very healthy looking seals hanging around. In fact, there were 5 seals of varying ages resting on an abandoned pier before dawn yesterday - a beautiful sight to behold in this video clip. The rising tide finally encouraged them to return to Elliott Bay. It is a sight like this that can lift the spirits of a very saddened volunteer and remind us of the very important work we do.

Pup spends evening in vulnerable location

Thanks to the Walker family for calling in a report to our hotline of a seal pup trying to rest in a very vulnerable location yesterday evening. Our responder taped off the area and SS volunteers watched over the pup until he returned to Elliott Bay shortly after midnight. It was too dark even at 6pm to get an id on the pup, but he looked to have reasonably good body weight. There were reports that a crowd of people had been gathered within feet of the pup taking photos - so many, many thanks to the Walkers for calling us! The fact that the pup was not scared back into the water only serves to remind everyone how exhausted pups can be (or ill or injured) when they finally come on shore. Please help spread the word to STAY BACK, give them space and call the hotline.

UPDATE 1/26/11
This pup was hauled out for many hours yesterday at Jack Block Park. We are monitoring his/her health (there is no way of telling the sex of a pup without a physical exam).

On the beach training for new volunteers

Seal Sitters held an on the beach training this morning for our new volunteers. This training specifically addressed protocol for safety issues and an introduction to establishing perimeters in often challenging situations. Since pups (and adult seals and sea lions) can haul out near urban sidewalks, sea walls and beach paths in addition to more remote locations, we discussed the many options for ensuring the protection of both the animal and the public. Thanks to everyone who turned out for the training today!

UPDATE: Thanks to Ellen and Tracy at the West Seattle Blog for their excellent coverage of Seal Sitters and for spreading the word about protecting pups - and any other maine mammal on the shore. Here’s the WS Blog’s post about our beach training.

Peek a boo pup

     
This afternoon, a seal pup drifting offshore caught the eye of our first responder, who enjoyed an unexpected and enchanting interlude with the pup. The curious little “weaner” would venture in near the high bank, stare intently for a bit, and then vanish in a silvery flash - only to reappear minutes later a few feet away. This inter-species game of peek a boo went on for well over half an hour and made our volunteer’s day. “Boo” has been hanging around close to shore for some days now.

Lazy morning for seal pup and adults

     
Early this morning, our first responder was delighted by the sight of a seal pup and two adults resting on the abandoned dock at Jack Block Park. All three were quite alert and aware of the activity of dogs and walkers in the park - as well as the surf scoters swimming by. Seals have excellent hearing and adults are especially skittish, so please remember to observe them quietly from a distance. There are still a number of adults and pups using shoreline habitat; it is imperative that they have time to regulate their body temperature during these rainy and cold winter months.

Seal pup rescued from public boat launch dies

Seal Sitters’ hotline received calls from several concerned residents this morning regarding a seal pup in “distress” at Don Armeni boat launch. When our first responder arrived, the pup, who was on the cement ramp surrounded by large woody debris, was indeed in very serious trouble. After a call to PAWS Wildlife Center to make sure they could accept him, our NOAA authorized volunteers gently placed the incapacitated pup into a transport cage. Sadly, the pup died en route to PAWS’ facility in Lynnwood. A necropsy will be performed to determine the cause of death. A comparison of markings will be used to determine if this is a pup Seal Sitters has observed before on our beaches. Please check back for necropsy results.

UPDATE 1/15/11: NECROPSY RESULTS IN
The preliminary necropsy results on this male pup reveal that he had heartworms and a moderate amount of lungworms. The pup had been exhibiting seizures, so tissue was tested for domoic acid poisoning, but that test came up negative. Sterile brain tissue has been sent to a lab in Canada for further analysis, including testing for protozoal organisms which cause seizure symptoms. The pup was severely underweight with a blubber thickness of .7 cm (normal blubber thickness for a healthy pup is about 1.5 cm). To understand more about the difficulties pups face and impact of low body weight and parasites on them, please click here. The pup was not one we had looked after this season.

UPDATE 2/1/11: FURTHER RESULTS IN
Initial result is that the pup tested positive for a toxoplasma or neospora-like protozoals in the brain tissue, causing the neurological symptoms. Further testing is underway.

Pup visits Beach Drive

A pup with good body weight came ashore briefly this morning at a small public shore access on Beach Drive. The pup returned to the water shortly after our volunteer established a perimeter.

Sea lion acrobatics to start the new year

     
The sea lions that hang out on the Elliott Bay buoys enjoyed the sunshine today and entertained walkers with their high-flying acrobatics. These athletic maneuvers, called porpoising, are used to elude predators such as orcas and sharks, but also seemed to just be plain fun on this gorgeous day. Sea lions hone their skills at these movements through play. The buoy was packed with male sea lions, barking loudly as they jostled for a resting place.



Pup at Discovery Park for second straight day

For the second day in a row, Seal Sitters responded to reports of a pup on the beach at Discovery Park. The pup, who had reasonably good body weight and condition, was back on the beach early this morning and rested until dark. Apparently, this same pup may have been using this section of beach for some days before we received a report. For the safety of the animal and the public, it is important to call and alert the stranding network when there is any marine mammal on shore. At Discovery Park, you can stop at the Visitor Center and inform the staff if you don’t have a phone to call the hotline. Thanks to the staff and docents for helping to educate the public and protect the seals.

Busy New Year's Eve for Seal Sitters

New Year’s Eve proved to be a busy day for Seal Sitters volunteers as two weaned pups hauled out to enjoy the sun. The hotline received a report about 11:30 of a pup at Constellation Park close to the sea wall. This poses a challenge for volunteers to keep onlookers at a distance so the pup will be undisturbed: the sidewalk is virtually right above the wall and we cannot close the sidewalk due to pedestrian safety and traffic issues. Even though we positioned volunteers at each end of the walk, too many people gathered above the pup and he made his way back into the Sound. We’d like to remind folks that seals have excellent hearing and assembling in a crowd too close to them is terribly disruptive to their rest. This pup, nicknamed Winky by a child, was too thin for our liking and exhibited some unusual tremors. We hope the pup will resurface on the beach so we can do some further health assessments.

     
A second pup literally went out on a limb to get some warmth yesterday afternoon. This pup was on a log at Lincoln Park that extended out from the beach. The pup, which a volunteer nicknamed Timber, undoubtedly crawled up on the large tree trunk at high tide and then stayed put for a long rest. Due to the recent storms and high waves, the beaches are covered with debris, making it difficult for pups to come ashore safely. Pups need to take advantage of any warmth and rest they can get this time of year. Timber appeared reasonably healthy for a weaned winter pup and Seal Sitters, including new volunteers Vicky, Billy and Betsy, kept watch over him until he returned to the Sound shortly after sunset. Volunteers informed beach walkers of his presence and asked that they please restrain their off leash dogs.
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