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Off leash dog scares Abe at Lincoln Park

Seal pup Abe returned again today to Lincoln Park for a rest, but narrowly escaped an off leash dog in what could have been a tragic incident. The hotline received a call this morning that a pup was on the beach. Our responder found an alert Abe at the water’s edge with a small crowd quietly observing from a reasonable distance. The responder quickly established a tape perimeter around him, but due to walking path issues people were still allowed far closer than the ideal. Abe became more relaxed and settled in for a quick nap, but as the tide came in he moved closer towards the walk and captivated onlookers. Still, people were very respectful of his need to rest and Abe slept for several hours nestled behind a log. However, one of our volunteers noticed a man and off leash dog approaching the area close to the beach; she asked him to please leash his dog as there was a seal pup resting on shore. Unfortunately, he did not. Suddenly, from the grass above, his black lab got a whiff of the unsuspecting seal pup and bolted straight for him. Abe barely managed to escape the dog - who even followed him into the water!

We plead with people over and over to please keep dogs leashed near the beach and to respect the city ordinance that dogs are not allowed on any public beach. A dog’s sense of smell is amazing - and one can just never predict how a dog will react when they discover a seal is on the beach. This is a good example of how a dog owner can overestimate the control they have over their pet and underestimate the pet’s reaction in these situations. The dog owner was apologetic. We were very lucky today that this seal pup was not seriously mauled or killed. Had Abe been ill or trying to heal from an injury, he would not have been able to escape. Abe did not return to shore.

Seal pup Spanky visited his favorite rock again today, but returned to Puget Sound at high tide.

Seal Sitters get a respite today after dawn to dusk days

West Seattle volunteers got a much-needed break today after ten straight days of dawn to dusk duties protecting Umbreon, Sly and Spanky as well as new pups, Noche and Abe. Umbreon (at left as darkness fell on Monday evening), who has been a regular visitor to the same small niche of rocks, spent most of today leisurely foraging and swimming a few feet offshore. He is a very dark pup when wet, but has a beautiful gray and white tweed coat when dry and distinct white markings around the eyes. Umbreon continues to be of good body weight and very alert to his surroundings and potential dangers. Most weaned pups become more wary of people as they get older and are more easily scared off than a young, unsuspecting pup.

Sly, who had been looking too thin and spending more and more hours on shore, finally returned to Elliott Bay early Tuesday morning. Since that time, he has not been observed on his favorite haulout rock. We’re hoping that his many hours of rest has given him the strength to forage and pack on some desperately needed pounds. A small white pup who could be Sly has been observed along with several other pups fishing and lingering in the waters nearby. As pups are weaned and become thinner, their immune system is suppressed, making them vulnerable to parasites and viruses. Small fish seem to be plentiful now around West Seattle and Sly could use a second trip through the buffet line.

Spanky, too, has chosen the relative safety of a rocky stretch of beach, but on the west side. While less accessible to direct threat by humans and dogs, his rest is most definitely disrupted when people get too close on the seawall above him. By definition, a violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act includes any human disturbance which alters the behavior of a marine mammal. It’s important that we do our part to not disrupt pups whenever possible - sometimes a difficult endeavor when you have a crowd of people who are so enthusiastic at the very sight! Spanky has great body weight and appears to be thriving. Like most pups, he has a few nicks and abrasions, but nothing that appears of concern. He enchanted onlookers late Sunday afternoon as he perched on the tip of a rock surrounded by the brilliant blue water of Puget Sound. Eventually, a series of large swells swept Spanky off his roost (see video clip). Spanky has been one of our regulars and made a brief appearance today.

We have two additional newcomers: Noche who spent the evening on the south end of Alki Beach Sunday (our fourth pup onshore that day) and Abe who came ashore at Lincoln Park on Tuesday. This is one crazy pup season we are having this year - and the volunteers are loving it!

"A double seal pup on the rocks, please"

For the 9th day straight, Sly has used the safety of West Seattle’s rocky shoreline, but is getting thinner by the day. Umbreon has taken a liking to this spot as well, spending the past two days lounging with his friend.

These have been very long and cold days for our volunteers. It would be nice to think that constant vigilance is not necessary, but each day we have had intentional breaches of the tape barrier. Once the tide recedes, the pups are quite high on the rocks and, if scared, face an extreme risk of falling with possible injury. Both pups have already taken such a tumble this past week.

We have also had visits on the west side by seal pups #38 and 39. Please check back for photos/video and updates about these new pups.

Stranding network on alert following West Seattle oil spill

The NW Marine Mammal Stranding Network (including Seal Sitters MMSN) has members trained in oil spill response and is on alert for any animals impacted by the oil spill this week (see WS Blog’s excellent coverage). An intense 3-day workshop in oil spill response with followup hands-on training was provided by NOAA following the Gulf catastrophe. Many members of the Northwest’s network received this training. Weaned seal pups are especially vulnerable, since the smallest bit of oil can greatly impact their tenuous health this time of year. Additionally, there is a private raft located close to (and now possibly within) the spill radius which is heavily used by adult seals and pups, river otters, cormorants and herons. Should you see any affected animals (or birds), please call Seal Sitters’ hotline at 206-905-7325 and we will immediately notify the NWMMSN spill response team. Animals may be impacted for many weeks to come, so please be on the alert.

Diehard volunteers bundle up to safeguard pups

Seal Sitters volunteers have donned their winter clothing and grabbed their handwarmers for the past six days to protect pups Sly and Umbreon. It has been terribly cold and windy duty and these diehards deserve many kudos for their dedication in safeguarding the weaned pups. Shown here is Jodean, all bundled up with the Seattle skyline behind her. And young volunteer Elizabeth pulled early morning duty with her dad Eric. She is shown here talking to a group of people about the importance of letting Sly get an uninterrupted nap. Thanks to all our amazing volunteers who have put in very long, bone-chiling hours this week!

Sly spent almost 11 hours resting on the rocks, returning to the Sound at evening high tide. A kayaker came too close for a look, scared Sly and he fell onto the rocks below. This is the third incident this season (and the second in two days) where people or dogs have scared a pup high up on rocky banks and the pup has fallen. Please keep your distance whether on land or out on the water. Pups cannot maneuver well on shore (and especially on rocks) so are vulnerable to injury if they are frightened and try to escape. Umbreon did not come ashore today.

Two seal pups on shore again today

For the 5th day straight, seal pup Sly hauled out for a long snooze. He was joined again today by new pup Umbreon, who has shared a small stretch of rocky shoreline for two days now. Apparently there is a good food source of small bait fish off West Seattle’s city side. As a rule, a pup will choose a resting place close to where he forages. Last year, we had three fat seal pups using this vicinity to feed and rest for many days in a row. What do seal pups eat? They like tiny fish like shiner perch, 3 spined sticklebacks, starry flounder, gunnel, shrimp and squid. Unfortunately, small fish thrive in the underwater environment created by man-made structures such as docks and fishing piers; that is often the reason that pups are drawn to these places with inherent dangers of fishing gear and vehicles. And people who feed pups or dump bait at these locations only reinforce learned behavior that can be deadly in the long run - they are not doing pups a favor.

Umbreon (photo left), a dark pup with distinct white squiggles around the eyes, was very skittish today on his high rock perch. An unwitting paddle boarder came too close and scared Umbreon, who tumbled down the rocks into the water below. We don’t know if the pup was injured since he did not return. Please remember when you are out on the water, you need to keep your distance from pups on shore. Sly disappeared back into Elliott Bay only after being engulfed in waves from high tide (photo above). Volunteers braved wind and cold to keep an eye on the two pups, #36 and 37 that we have watched over since August.

Seal pups get national media coverage

Seal Sitters and our bumper crop of seal pups are receiving national attention thanks to a feature story by Associated Press. The story which was released yesterday has been picked up on websites nationwide. People in Philadelphia, Boston, Denver, Atlanta, San Francisco and in smaller communities across the US are reading about seal pup Sly and his friends. Many thanks to writer Phuong Le and photographer Elaine Thompson for such a great story! Read the article here.

Curious pup delights volunteers and public

Our responder found seal pup Sly nestled on the seaweed covered rocks of Elliott Bay early this morning. For the third day in a row, this alert white pup with hints of gold fur has rested for many hours. Volunteers talked to occasional walkers on this blustery and, at times, torrentially wet day.

Late in the afternoon, Sly quite reluctantly returned to the water, but only when waves at high tide rushed repeatedly over him. Then, to the delight and surprise of volunteers and onlookers, Sly swam close-in along the shore towards the small group on the bank.
He lingered just a few feet offshore - staring curiously at us, as if analyzing these crazy humans who stood out in a downpour most of the day to keep him safe. This interaction was really quite unusual in our 4 years of stranding work; our lead investigator could only recall two other similar instances - one was seal pup Boo and the other, Abby the elephant seal, who swam over to her, blowing bubbles an arm’s length away offshore. We will be on the lookout for Sly tomorrow.

Sly little pup finds a rocky spot

The hotline received a call late morning about a pup on West Seattle’s city side. Our responder found the pup, who had evidently hauled out at high tide, enjoying a sunbreak on the rocks. A tape perimeter was set and the pup, nicknamed Sly, rested for several hours before returning to Elliott Bay. One bystander wondered why we couldn’t move the tape so people could get a view of him on the rocks below. Unfortunately, that would have meant that folks would be a mere 15 or 20 feet (NOAA recommends 100 yards) from the pup and a gathering crowd would have disrupted the pup’s much-needed shut-eye. If you can see the pup, he can see you - and hear you (seals have excellent hearing). In this particular situation, it was not possible to have a good vantage point for viewing him. More likely than not, Sly would have been scared back into the water, possibly coming ashore on the nearby Don Armeni boat launch, a very dangerous place for a small pup and at times an inconvenient situation for boaters and fishermen.

Pups keep volunteers busy on beaches north

Mukilteo and Edmonds beaches have seen lots of seal pup action of late. Seal Sitters Sno-King wing looked after a pup in Mukilteo over a 4 day span. The pup (at right) got the name Teaser because he would go into the water and return a couple of hours later - of course, after volunteers had removed the tape perimeter only to have to put it up again. After three days, volunteers wisely opted to leave the tape up and Teaser did return true to form.

Volunteers monitored this alert and seemingly healthy pup who does have a small nick on his nose. Most seals in the wild have minor cuts or abrasions, so it’s not always a health concern. In fact, we have had several pups over the last few years with infected wounds (some pretty severe) that have healed with just rest and salt water.

We have reports that Edmonds has had a busy pup season thus far, too. If you see a pup on the beach along the Edmonds waterfront, please call Edmonds Seal Sitters @ 425-327-3336. Seal Sitters MMSN responds to all other beaches stretching from West Seattle to Marysville’s Kayak Point. Thanks to all the Sno-King and Edmonds SS volunteers who are doing such a great job protecting the pups and educating the public, including the concerned young woman who was way too close to Teaser with her leashed dog.

Stranding Networks play important role in Northwest

Occasionally, someone questions the authority of Seal Sitters MMSN to establish a perimeter to protect marine mammals. Additionally, several people have wondered “how much is it costing?” We’d like to formally address those questions here.

“Seal Sitters MMSN, part of NOAA's Northwest Marine Mammal Stranding Network, responds to reports of live and dead marine mammals from West Seattle to Marysville. The NWMMSN consists of a number of organizations, including WA Dept of Fish and Wildlife and Cascadia Research, and many volunteers who cover the entire inner and outer coast of Washington and Oregon. Seal Sitters has a signed agreement with NOAA and therefore has the authority to establish any necessary perimeter around a marine mammal to prevent disturbance or harassment, as per federal law passed in 1972 - the Marine Mammal Protection Act. While NOAA recommends that people stay a minimum of 100 yards away, we realize that is not always possible in an urban environment. We make every attempt to enable a marine mammal to rest onshore without greatly inconveniencing the public. That said, our primary goal is protection and safety for both the animal and the public. Sometimes, there may be a slight inconvenience in order to do so.

Seal Sitters is an all-volunteer organization and does this service and educational outreach with no monetary compensation from the City, State or NOAA.”

Please, respect both the barriers and the volunteers who donate many selfless hours, sometimes under trying circumstances. Already this season, we have had many days with pups in multiple locations. Volunteers Eilene and David (photo above) are among those who tirelessly educate the public about lovable seal pups, such as Henry along Alki Avenue. Seal Sitters greatly appreciates the support and cooperation of our community! We do have many operational expenses throughout the year, including maintaining our dedicated phone hotline and websites, as well as printed outreach and training materials. If you’d like to make a tax deductible donation to help us continue this valuable work, please click here.

Pup-ulation explosion on shores of West Seattle

Seal Sitters’ volunteers are trying to catch their breath after a whirlwind of pups the last few weeks - a veritable pupulation explosion on our shoreline. Why are so many pups drawn to West Seattle? That is a question we’re all asking, including our NOAA stranding expert. Last year from August - December, we watched over a total of 33 different West Seattle pups. Of those, three pups spent 15, 17 and 52 consecutive days hauled out. There were a total of 15 pups from August - October 4th.

This year, from August - October 5th (yesterday), we have already surpassed last year’s five-month total: 35 different pups have now been observed and protected by our West Seattle volunteers! And October is typically one of our busiest months, so we can only guess how many pups we’ll have by the end of the year.

Our 35th pup is shown in the photo here. Nicknamed Spanky, this very robust and alert pup found a nice rock to rest upon before the incoming tide’s waves sent him swimming off into the Sound. This is just the kind of round pup with a thick blubber layer that we want to see this time of year, when too many are becoming thinner and trying to survive. Blacky, who has been using Lincoln Park for several weeks now, has become noticeably thinner the past two sightings. Seal pup Aquarius, who hauled out at Constellation Park for two days in a row, was rescued from that beach Friday, but died at PAWS. We cannot stress enough that seal pups need to rest and warm up undisturbed in order to maintain their strength and keep their immune system resilient.

Seal pup Sandy thriving in rehab at PAWS

The seal pup nicknamed Sandy is fattening up at PAWS Wildlife Center in Lynnwood, the only local resource for rehabbing a small number of seal pups each season. The terribly thin pup weighed only 7.7 kgs, or slightly less than 17 lbs, when taken to PAWS on August 15th after spending the night on a West Seattle beach. A healthy pup her age should have weighed about 23 kgs (approx 50 lbs). As of September 24th, Sandy had doubled her weight in rehab to 36 lbs and she is reported to be great at catching live fish! She is due to be released in a few weeks. In the photo, Sandy shows off her new beachball body with a pal in the rehab pool. She will be released when her weight reaches 50 lbs, a sufficient blubber layer to sustain her as she makes the transition back into the wild. Thank you PAWS!
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