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Day 51 for Queen Latifah

Yesterday marked 51 consecutive days that Queen Latifah has hauled out. As long as she has safe refuge and a food source who knows how long she will continue to use the City side rocks! She has been a tremendous ambassador for all pinnipeds (Latin for “winged foot” ) in this highly trafficked location. And since the sea lions swim by on a regular basis, onlookers have learned the many differences between harbor seals and sea lions - in addition to the behavior and biology of seal pups. Many people had the misconception that the sea lions who haul out on the Elliott Bay buoy were related to Latifah. Not only are they a different species, but they’re all males. For in-depth information on seals and sea lions, please visit our website.

Latifah is looking a bit thinner, so we did some health assessment photos and video (with an extreme telephoto) to see if the lesions on her mouth are getting worse. She’s been doing alot of scratching and pawing at her mouth over the last weeks so the sores are obviously bothering her. However, she is one alert pup as auto traffic, seagulls and helicopters bustle above her and seems in overall good health.

Happy Thanksgiving to all our volunteers and supporters

Seal Sitters wants to extend holiday wishes to all of our dedicated volunteers and those of you in the public who have been so supportive of our work. We have much to be thankful for this season: all of our pups who continue to entertain and amaze us and so many genuinely caring people who want to understand and protect them. We are so grateful that little ET traveled all the way from his tiny island rookery near Steilacoom to heal his wounds on our West Seattle shores - and so thankful that we were given the opportunity to help him do so. We are elated that PAWS was able to successfully rehabilitate Storm who was just recently released back to the wild. We are so lucky to live on the Salish Sea.

To all of you, Happy Thanksgiving and very safe travels on those still-icy roads.

Seal Sitters new volunteer training set for December 9th

Due to the response from many people wanting to volunteer for Seal Sitters after the airing of the KOMO 4 news story on November 15th, we are having a first-time-ever winter training. 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). With any luck, we might get to see the Barred Owls that hang out there! Many thanks to naturalist Gretchen Graber. Please rsvp for this training.

Neither rain, nor sleet nor snow keeps Latifah away

Queen Latifah hauled out on her rocks yesterday in the swirling snow and winds for the 44th straight day. The winds have been so fierce that the barricades are flat on the ground half the time, but people are respecting her need for rest. At 4pm, the last time our volunteer braved the elements, she had returned to Elliott Bay. According the WDFW’s marine mammal research biologist, most seals will bottom or surf rest during storms or when the wind and air is colder than the water. Just before yesterday’s storm, only a few seals were on shore at a South Puget Sound rookery, but over 50 were resting in the water.

Queen Latifah survives brutal windstorms

Queen Latifah has survived the past week’s intense storms with high winds and waves. Today she hauled out earlier than usual, no doubt exhausted from yesterday’s windstorm. The video shown here was before the brunt of the gale force storm hit West Seattle. Due to the extreme winds and surf, she hauled out for only a brief time. More often than not, seals will ride out a storm in the water rather than be battered onshore by the elements. Even then, storm debris can prove quite dangerous and inflict serious injury. She had a couple of new cuts today, but we did not see anything of major concern. A 12 foot log had been tossed by the waves onto Latifah’s favorite haulout rock so, after she returned to Elliott Bay late today, our volunteer kicked it back into the water. Hopefully, tonight’s tides will take it far out into the channel waters.

Jack Block Park safe haven for seals

Yesterday morning, three seals enjoyed the safety of an abandoned dock at Jack Block Park. One was a very chubby pup (thus far not identified, but definitely not ET). Of the other two seals, one was an adult and the second (partially obscured so body length was not determined) was either an adult or sub-adult. The seals stretched and yawned in the early morning sunlight. As seen in the video here, the seal with the solid golden coat has some orange colorations in the fur. This coloration is caused by the attachment of iron oxides to the external hair shafts, with causes ranging from pollutants, genetics to foraging strategies. San Francisco has the highest incidence of red seals anywhere, directly related to iron oxide.

There are rumors that Jack Block Park beaches will be opened to public use. We hope that, instead, these protected beaches will remain closed and the area declared a marine preserve. This dock and surrounding beaches are frequented by resting seals. It is the one sanctuary where off leash dogs and uniformed people cannot negatively impact them. Please remember, if you see seals on the dock observe them quietly.

Seal pup Storm finally returns home to the Salish Sea

After over 10 weeks in rehab at PAWS in Lynnwood, our Lincoln Park seal pup Storm has finally been returned to her home in the Salish Sea. Yesterday afternoon, after being given a final examination by veterinarian Dr. John Huckabee, she was loaded into a kennel, sporting a new red identification tag (#803), and transported by truck to an Everett boat launch. Then, in the rain and cold, a team which included PAWS, NOAA, Everett Parks and our SS first responder escorted Storm by boat to her release destination off Jetty Island. Storm became quite animated in her kennel as the salt air and water whipped over the open boat. The excitement and anticipation was evident, too, in the faces of the team. We all silently wondered how she would react to this huge expanse of water after being alone in a small pool for months. Would she be able to fish successfully in the wild? Would she be able to assimilate into the local seal colony? Would she be safe on her own? Worries were soon vanquished by the joy of seeing the kennel gate swing open and Storm plunge into the frigid gray water. She lingered for a bit, looking so small and fragile in the vast waters, and then swam around the tip of the island, out of sight.

When Seal Sitters rescued Storm from the beach on Labor Day, September 6th, she was estimated to be only a few weeks old, weighed a mere 17.7 lbs and was a length of 33 inches. Yesterday when released, she weighed 62 lbs and was 37 inches - only 4 inches longer, but about 45 lbs heavier! Storm is truly a beautiful blubberball who has been given a second chance at life. To have been a part of saving her life and helping Storm return home cannot be put into words.

To read all posts about Storm, please click on the tag below.

Please respect the tape barrier - it is the law

For the past two days, a number of people have been intentionally going inside the “protected marine mammal” tape barrier to get a closer look at seal pup Queen Latifah (even though there are excellent vantage points). Seal Sitters wants to remind the public that once that tape is in place, you are breaking a federal law, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, if you cross it. Should you see a Seal Sitter volunteer inside the tape with a camera it is only to get health assessment photos or video (Latifah has some bloody mouth lesions we are keeping an eye on). No one else is allowed inside the barrier unless a member of the Stranding Network for approved purposes.

Onlookers standing too close to pups causes unnecessary stress. When one person breaches the tape, it is human nature that others follow suit. Case in point, yesterday afternoon there were about 7 people illegally inside the tape. Seal pups need to rest and warm up and they have limited places to do so in our urban environment. This morning our first responder watched Queen Latifah desperately try to haul out onto the rocks to rest - it took her a full 40 minutes of very physical labor to finally secure a spot on the rocks. Within minutes a woman runner went under the tape, standing on the rocks just a few feet above her. It would have been a travesty if she had scared Latifah back into the water, forcing her to waste yet more precious calories trying to haul out.

So, please resist the temptation to get too close. Enjoy the pups from a distance and know that you will be helping them to survive.

ET and Queen Latifah's TV and media splash attracts volunteers

The high profile presence of seal pups ET and Queen Latifah for such an extended stretch on our shores, has attracted much attention and, therefore, many new people interested in volunteering for Seal Sitters. KOMO 4 News’ lead story last night was about our November seal pup phenomenon and the fact that our volunteers are stretched a bit thin and exhausted - however, truly a labor of love for all of us. Minutes after the Lindsay Cohen segment aired, we began receiving emails wanting to know when the next training was scheduled. Typically, our first training of the year is in June and we offer a second in September since pupping season is from late July - September. While we always have weaned pups visit our shores throughout the fall and winter, never before have they decided to stick around for lengthy stays requiring volunteers for many days on end. The really exciting aspect of this is that they are unusually healthy for this time of year. So, based on all the new volunteer interest and the rather atypical year we are having, we will be scheduling a training in early December. Please check the website and blog where we will post the date once determined.

Coincidentally, The West Seattle Herald’s MaryBeth Dagg wrote a nice feature yesterday as well, so check it out here.

Tracy Record and the West Seattle Blog provide excellent on-going coverage of our pups on the beaches, so please check their posts frequently, too.

Thanks to all of the above media for helping us get the word out to give our pups some space!

Sea lion deaths on Oregon coast - warning to tourists

A bacterial outbreak has caused the death or illness of numerous California sea lions along the Oregon coast and a death has also been reported in Long Beach, WA. The disease, known as Leptospirosis, is contagious to humans and other animals and warnings have been issued to stay away from beached sea lions (of course, the Marine Mammal Protection Act recommends 100 yards). The disease causes kidney failure in sea lions and seals. It is spread through the urine of infected animals so always keep your dog on a leash. According to the Orgeon Veterinary Medical Association, the symptoms in dogs include “fever, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, refusal to eat, severe weakness and depression, renal disease and liver disfunction. Risk factors for dogs include contaminated water.” For the full story and video, click here.

Quiet day for Seal Sitters

Today was a much-needed quiet day for our volunteers. Still no confirmed sightings of ET; however, a pup was sleeping in the water early this morning near his last haul out spot. Yes, seals can sleep in the water and underwater, holding their breath for about 25 minutes. Queen Latifah wasn’t sleeping, though - she was having breakfast in her usual fishing hole and then spent a fair amount of time trying to haul out on the slippery rocks. She was tired and wanted to rest, but the tide was still a bit high for her to get onto her favorite rock. She was persistent and finally succeeded as you can see in this video clip. All seals (adults and pups) spend about 50% of their time resting and warming up on shore.

No sightings of ET today, but Latifah's streak still going strong

Our volunteers did not see ET anywhere on the beaches today. However, we did see what is most likely his new haulout marks - from virtually the same spot where he rested yesterday. These marks were fresh early this morning, so it looks like maybe he came back onshore sometime during the night or very early morning. We are not particularly worried that he was not around today. His wounds were healing nicely and he probably is just expanding his horizons for foraging. If we’re lucky, we’ll get another glimpse of him again. It’s always a strange feeling when you’ve looked after a pup for so many days and then suddenly he is gone - perhaps never to return.

Queen Latifah, on the other hand, was hauled out on the rocks for the 33rd confirmed day in a row. Pretty soon the City will start charging her waterfront property tax. She is the most robust weaned pup we have ever observed in West Seattle - quite an exhilarating sight for Seal Sitters.

Friend and advisor, Jule Sugarman, passes away

Seal Sitters is terribly saddened by the passing of our supporter and advisor, Jule Sugarman, on November 2nd. Jule, 83 years old, was the husband of core team member, Candace Sullivan. Despite his many lofty accomplishments in 40 years of public service, Jule always kept his celebrity modest and unassuming. Among those accomplishments, he was the architect for Head Start under the Lyndon Johnson administration, advisor to Mayor John Lindsay of NYC, and was on the team that helped then-governor Jimmy Carter transition to the office of the President. His passion was to improve the lives of underprivileged children and this became the focus of his work. Seal Sitters is honored to have known this remarkable man who gave so generously of his time, advising us on many issues. To read more about Jule and his humanitarian work, please read the following links.

Jule Sugarman, architect of head start dies at 83 (Seattle Times)
Jule Sugarman dies; Head Start founder was 83 (Washington Post)
Jule Sugarman, Director and Architect of Head Start, dies at 83 (New York Times)

Storm to be released back into the wild next week

Our Lincoln Park emaciated seal pup, Storm, who was rescued from the beach on Labor Day and taken to PAWS for treatment, is ready for release back into the wild. After a long rehab where she was able to build up strength and pack on some serious pounds, she will finally be able to go home to Puget Sound on Tuesday. Our first responder is thrilled to be able to accompany Storm on this full-circle journey.

We thank PAWS for their monumental effort to restore her back to health. Our little bag-o-bones pup is now a true blubberball.

ET's on the move - again

ET opted for a new piece of real estate today, hauling out on the private stretch of beach at the end of Alki. Thankfully, a savvy waterfront resident gave us a call and we were able to establish a tape perimeter on this beach where off leash dogs are all too common. The fact that it was a drizzly and cold day helped out as well to keep foot traffic to a minimum. ET had a much quieter rest at this tranquil location - quite the contrast to all the vehicle (and people) noise he was exposed to on the City side. His flipper wounds look well on their way to healing. He returned to the waters of Puget Sound about 4:10 this afternoon. So, it will be interesting to see where he decides to haul out tomorrow morning. If you spot little ET with his blue tag (or any of his pals), give us a call.

Queen Latifah was hauled out again on the rocks.

ET entertains West Seattle again today

Our volunteer found ET hauled out again just before dawn this morning. However, shortly thereafter, he moved back to the cove where he spent yesterday - within a mere 5 feet of a busy sidewalk and approximately 25 feet from noisy Harbor Avenue SW. Here’s a video of ET in the pink light of dawn, only minutes after he hauled out at cove #2. You can see the steam rise off his back in the brisk morning air. Once our volunteer established a perimeter, he slept peacefully onshore despite loud traffic zipping by and the bustle of bicyclists and commuters. He finally returned to Elliott Bay about 6:30pm.

Thanks to all the volunteers who are devoting so many hours to keep him safe in the cold. And many thanks to the divers who were so considerate of ET’s need to rest, using another cove for their dive today.

ET ties Pebbles at 15 straight days, but Queen Latifah still reigns

Our little trickster ET continues to mix it up for our volunteers - which is most likely a good sign regarding his health. Instead of hauling out at dawn at the cove where he has resided the past two days, he surprised us by picking another one. Our volunteer was checking every beach and cove on the City side very early this morning, but ET hauled out right after she left to search the next one. Thankfully, one of our alert early morning dog walkers spotted him on the beach and let us know. He looked nice and plump and settled in for a long nap in the pouring rain, perhaps dreaming of the chase and of catching tiny fish (yes, scientists have proven that seals do dream). ET returned to Elliott Bay about 5:15 this afternoon with an even bigger fan club as commuters stopped to ask questions of volunteers. This was his 15th straight day on shore in West Seattle, including the days he hauled out on the rocks with Queen Latifah.

Queen Latifah (shown above lounging in the rain) extends her even longer uninterrupted streak on the rocks. Thankfully, she is healthy and alert and continues to choose a spot that only sometimes requires volunteers - mostly on sunny days or weekends when she attracts alot of attention and can’t get the rest she needs.

Record setting November for seal pups

November of this year has been the busiest on record for Seal Sitters. Queen Latifah has long surpassed Pebbles’ 15 day haulout streak with no end in sight as she continues to lounge on her rocky throne. And ET (shown tucked away in the driftwood) looks to be challenging that record as well - today was his 14th day in a row resting on our shores. The good news for ET (and Seal Sitters) is that he has again chosen this safe cove. Now, just as when Pebbles called that beach home, commuters check on ET on their morning and evening commute and walkers and joggers stop by to say hello. Once ET gets settled in, he snoozes for many, many hours virtually unaware of the curious and quiet crowd. This location is a win for all - ET can rest safely and the public gets a unique glimpse into the life of a harbor seal pup - quite an amazing thing to observe in the middle of a major metropolitan city. And this safer location is so much less stressful on our volunteers. ET hauled out very early this morning and returned to Elliott Bay in the evening. Queen Latifah looked alert and beautiful as always today.

ET keeps us on our toes

ET hauled out at an unexpected, but welcome, location today - the cove that came to be known as Pebbles’ beach. It is a much safer spot for him to rest without boats, trucks, buses and trailers passing him by. He picked a spot that was highly visible to the public so it was a perfect opportunity for educating people about the joys and biology of seal pups. We did notice a wound under his right flipper and hope it is nothing significant. He returned to the water approximately 4 pm this afternoon, just minutes after Queen Latifah left her rocks not too far north of him. Maybe they had a dinner date for some three spined stickleback.

West Seattle seal pup festival - four pups on the beach

Today was a crazy day for Seal Sitters trying to protect four seal pups in different locations in West Seattle. Two pups seem to be newcomers on our beaches, Pudge and Ancora. Pudge is a dark brown seal with white markings whom we thought might be one of two similar seals we have protected this season. But indeed, Pudge is new to our beach and rested on the rocks at high tide on the Alki side before moving farther down the beach. Ancora hauled out at Luna Point and gave us a bit of concern in the early morning with some coughing episodes. However, she rested comfortably for many hours on the warm sand (shown in the photo thermoregulating). And ET extends his boatramp haul out streak to 7 consecutive days. His patterns are changing a bit, however, which is a good thing and possibly an indication that his flipper wounds are less troublesome for him. He is coming and going from the ramp with shorter resting times. Queen Latifah entertained onlookers at her usual spot on the rocks. Seal Sitters volunteers were kept busy from early morning til early evening - another long day.

Another long day for ET and volunteers

ET spent over 13 hours yesterday under the collective watchful eye of Seal Sitters volunteers - the 5th day in a row. He was spotted early morning on the beach and volunteers hoped that was where he would spend the day. However, as the tide came in, ET decided to move back to his comfy new home at the boatramp. Little does he know that this location is infinitely more dangerous for him in the long run. It is not wise for a little pup to think that a highly trafficked site such as a public boat launch is a safe place for a haulout. Not every area has volunteers who work long shifts to keep pups safe from harm. In fact, the Everett marina has had a seal pup for 5 days now that was being harassed by people, including someone who wanted to feed the pup canned pet food. Not only is it against the law to touch and move a seal pup, it is illegal to feed them.

ET is becoming more and more tolerant of people’s disruptions around him and that is not a good thing for a young pup who needs to be innately wary for his survival. Not every person has such well-meaing, but misguided, intentions to help - such as the man who (from the relative anonymity of his pickup) suggested to our volunteer that we shoot ET. Yesterday as well, an off leash dog went under the tape barrier, but one of our volunteers was able to intervene.

ET’s wounds looked less infected, so extended and uninterrupted rest seems to be helping his healing process. Our new young volunteer, Emma, enjoyed watching over him. He finally returned to Elliott Bay at around 10:10pm.

Busy day for Seal Sitters - don't touch seal pups!

Today was a busy day for seal pups on the beach with two in high visibility and vulnerable locations. ET hauled out yet again at the boatramp early this morning and late into the evening. His body weight still looks good for a “weaner.” The sun brought out alot of curious people who wondered about his blue tag and why he had picked such a busy spot. Tired volunteers worked shifts for the fourth day in a row to protect him.

A second pup hauled out at Lincoln Park this afternoon. When our (exhausted and cranky) first responder arrived, there were a number of concerned and well-meaning citizens gathered near the pup. Please remember that the best way you can help seal pups is to GIVE THEM SPACE. Standing within a few feet of a pup causes undue stress when they are trying to find a safe spot to rest - seals and sea lions use the shoreline to rest and warm up. One of the bystanders said a man picked the pup up off the beach and put him back into the water, but the pup returned to shore. Don’t touch seal pups! It is against the law to touch or move a seal that is on the beach. Keep people and dogs as far away as possible and call Seal Sitters @ 206-905-SEAL (7325). Enter our phone number into your cell phone so you have quick access to help.

The Lincoln Park pup was determined to rest on shore as long as possible. When the incoming tide began to sweep across him, he crawled over a very large log and settled into a pile of leaves where he rested until darkness fell. This pup, nicknamed Leafy, had some blood around his eye, but examination of photos reveal that it is most likely a minor wound on the lid of the eye. If you are walking Lincoln Park early in the morning, please look for Leafy and call us if you spot him. We will be looking for him at first light.

UPDATE: ET returned to the water a few minutes before 10pm tonight after being onshore for 13 hours, his longest haulout to date at the boatramp.

ET has long snooze at the boatramp

ET hauled out about 10 am on this sunny morning for another extended stay on the boatramp. He looked plump and alert when he came ashore and settled in for a quick snooze. Not too much later, however, he decided to move to the other ramp and settled in for the long haul. Seal Sitters watched over him until he returned to the water around 9pm - another long day for volunteers, but ET is well-rested!

Latifah hauled out on the rocks yet again.

ET and volunteers spend bone-chilling day at boatramp

ET hauled out at the boatramp again yesterday morning. Volunteers spent the day in a drenching, cold rain making sure he was protected in this most vulnerable location. By late afternoon into early evening, we noticed some green “gook” on his eyes, sparking some concerns that perhaps his flipper infections were worsening his health. Photos were sent to the marine mammal research biologist and NOAA stranding expert for evaluation last evening. Once a pup’s immune system is compromised, they can take a turn all too suddenly for the worse. Rest assured that we are all keeping a watchful eye on ET’s health. ET finally made the long trek back down the ramp to Elliott Bay around 7:30 last night. As long as the pup is coming and going on his own and continuing to forage, there is no reason to intervene.

ET gives Seal Sitters a scare on Halloween

Seal Sitters volunteers did not spot ET on Saturday, but much to our dismay, he hauled out at the boat ramp early yesterday afternoon. He was looking alert and plump so we were not overly concerned. As the day wore on, however, we began to fear that perhaps there was some issue with his health that we weren’t aware of. Our volunteers mobilized and educated the public throughout the day and evening about the reasons for his blue tag and his history. ET finally returned to Elliott Bay at 9:39pm last night as the tide began to return - much to the relief of our cold and wet volunteers. We hope that he does not choose the very stressful location of the boat ramp for his new haul out site. We are surmising that ET picked this spot because he was not subjected to the intense wave action on the rocks.

Queen Latifah hauled out again yesterday on the rocks.
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