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Juvenile gray whale strands in Bremerton

Early yesterday Seal Sitters participated in the necropsy of a juvenile gray whale that stranded in Bremerton’s Dyes Inlet. The emaciated whale died on a stretch of private beach on Wednesday morning. The necropsy team led by Dyanna Lambourn, WDFW Marine Mammal Investigations, and Jessie Huggins, Cascadia Research, consisted of biologists, interns and volunteers from Cascadia, WDFW, Compassionate Critter Care, West Sound Wildlife, and Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network (SSMMSN). As the team assembled and discussed logistics, WDFW’s Josh Oliver (above) evaluated the situation with the receding tide. Tissue samples were obtained for various lab tests in hopes of determining the cause of death; however, it appears most likely that a number of factors contributed to the young whale’s demise. Read in more detail the findings on Cascadia’s website.

Shown at right, Seal Sitters co-lead investigator Rachel kept curious onlookers informed as to the necropsy process and shared information on the fascinating world of gray whales. This the 4th gray whale to have stranded this year - a number that is well within the normal range for our area.

Necropsies of marine mammals are vital to understanding the health of overall populations - as well as, of course, the cause of death for an individual animal. The work performed by the biologists, interns and volunteers is not only a challenge of mental and scientific sleuthing, but also an extremely physical endeavor. View a gallery of the whale’s necropsy. WARNING: While we have edited images carefully to be representative of the necropsy, but not overly graphic, it is not suitable for viewing by small children.

Pupping season in full swing in South Puget Sound

Harbor seal pupping season is officially under way in our area with numerous pregnant females and newborn pups. Today, our co-lead investigator Robin followed up on a report of a pup and mom sighted at a north end marina. Early this morning, she was elated to find the two resting safely on an abandoned launch and observed them (through a long telephoto lens) over a period of several hours. The mother was extremely attentive and protective of the tiny newborn with the umbilicus still attached. In this video clip, you’ll see the pup wake up from a snooze and nurse on mom’s rich milk. After a long breakfast, mom and pup returned to the Sound. This is the second newborn pup we have observed this season in Snohomish County near a known harbor seal haulout and rookery. Please be alert as you walk the beach and call Seal Sitters’ hotline @ 206-905-SEAL (7325) if you come across a pup alone on shore.

Visit our booth at Alki Art Fair

(see update end of story) Seal Sitters would like to thank the Alki Art Fair committee for giving us the opportunity to do some public outreach at the Fair on Alki Beach Saturday, July 23rd (10am-8:30pm) and Sunday, July 24th (10am-7:15pm). This very fun event, featuring numerous artists from the area, will have performing musicians of all genres (including blues, jazz, Brazilian, grunge and folk) from 10am til closing each day (see WS Blog’s listing). We’d like to toot the horn of Seal Sitters volunteer and co-lead investigator Rachel Mayer who will be playing a smokin’ saxophone with The MoodSwings, Seattle’s all-female big band, at 10am on Saturday. Make sure you visit the Fair, enjoy all the festivities and stop by our booth! Thanks to all the volunteers who will be donating time to this event.

UPDATE 7/25/11 Over the course of the weekend, Seal Sitters talked to 478 people about the marine mammal stranding network, the work we do and harbor seal pupping season. Shown at right is volunteer Nina with seal puppet mascot, Storm - named in honor of the thin seal pup we rescued from Lincoln Park last year. Storm weighed a mere 17.7 lbs the day we took her to PAWS for rehab and weighed a whopping 62 lbs when released ten weeks later. Nina and Storm delighted youngsters who stopped by our booth. Thanks to all the volunteers who donated time this weekend to educate the public.

Seal Sitters spreads message to wide audience at Seafood Fest

Seal Sitters spread our message of respect and protection for marine mammals to a large audience at the Ballard SeafoodFest over the weekend. During the two day festival, we educated approximately 663 people who, in a snowball effect, will continue to inform others that harbor seal pupping season is now underway, to leave seal pups undisturbed and call the network. Shown here (photo by volunteer David Hutchinson), volunteer Billy Lang talks to some youngsters and their mom about the importance of letting all pinnipeds (pups and adults) rest on the beach. Thanks to two in-kind grant awards from the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods, Seal Sitters now has some great educational outreach materials, both for events and distribution on the beach. On display is one of our new beach signs that you may have seen installed around West Seattle. Thanks to all the super-volunteers who put in such long hours this weekend!

Reminder - Seal Sitters new volunteer training Sunday, July 10

(see update) A reminder to all of you who are interested in volunteering for Seal Sitters this pupping season: the new volunteer training session is scheduled for Sunday, July 10th from 2-4 at Camp Long. There is still room for a few more attendees. Pupping season is now in full swing in the rookeries of our area and pups will soon be venturing off on their own and onto our urban beaches. If you’d like to help protect them and join Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network, you will need to attend a training. Click here for more details and make sure you rsvp.

UPDATE 7/11/11
Thanks to the 44 people who attended the training yesterday! As soon as your contact information and preferred areas of response are transferred into our database, you’ll start receiving your online calendar. We will let you know asap when the on-the-beach training is scheduled. It should be a busy pup season and we’re excited to have you help protect our little blubberballs - and all the marine mammals of Puget Sound.

Pupping season officially underway in South Puget Sound

Seal Sitters responded to multiple reports of a “tiny” seal pup in Everett the past few days. The pup was reported as “injured”, however, based on the description, our guess was that the pup still had an umbilicus attached. Our responder searched for the pup (shown here) who was found on a very busy public boat launch, indeed with a long umbilicus cord. Special thanks to Wildlife Officer Kraig Hansen for his assistance with this pup. Additionally, our hotline has received several calls regarding small pups on the beaches of Whidbey Island. We referred those callers to Central Puget Sound Stranding Network which handles all reports of marine mammals on Whidbey.

Pupping season is now in full swing in our area. There have been several fullterm births in the harbor seal rookeries of South Puget Sound, where the pupping season begins a few months after that on the outer coast of Washington. Most females with pups stick close to the rookeries where there is safety in numbers at haulouts, where they nurse their young for 4-6 weeks while teaching them the skills to survive - but periodically we will see very small, often premature, pups alone on the beach. If you come across a pup, keep people and dogs away and call our hotline at 206-905-SEAL (7325). We will respond, do a health assessment and secure the area. Or, if you are not within the response area of Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network, we will refer you to the network that serves that region. You can also find the appropriate numbers to call for Washington and Oregon here. We can expect to begin seeing a plethora of pups in our area mid- August as they are weaned and off searching for food on their own.

Visit Seal Sitters' booth at Ballard SeafoodFest

For the first time, Seal Sitters will have an outreach presence at the very popular Ballard SeafoodFest taking place a week from today, Saturday, July 9th from 11am-9pm and Sunday, July 10th from 11am-7pm. This annual festival has upwards of 50,000 visitors during the two-day event. Now that Seal Sitters responds to beaches stretching from West Seattle to just north of Everett (except the city beaches of Edmonds), this event provides an amazing opportunity to educate the public about marine mammals who come ashore on Puget Sound beaches, including Ballard’s Golden Gardens, Discovery Park, Carkeek, Richmond Beach and other beaches to the north.

We hope you’ll stop by, say hi and pick up some educational materials. Thanks to an in-kind grant from the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods, Seal Sitters has some great new outreach materials for events.
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