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Rehabbed seal pup makes long journey to the big city

A harbor seal pup chose the beach just north of Salty’s restaurant to rest Tuesday. That morning, the hotline received a call from a woman who was afraid off leash dogs would scare the pup back into the water before we could arrive. Our responder was on the scene within minutes and promptly “sealed” off the small cove.

Examining the skittish pup for health issues through her telephoto lens, our responder noticed a red tag on the rear flipper which indicated the animal had been in a rehabilitation facility. Thankfully, before the tag got too covered in sand, we were able to get the numbers for identification. Kristin Wilkinson, NOAA’s marine mammal stranding expert, promptly responded to our inquiry about the pup’s history. The female pup was taken to PAWS Wildlife Center on July 30, 2012, rehabilitated and released at McNeil Island, south of Tacoma, on October 2nd.

What had caused the pup to be taken from the wild? Human interference. The pup had been trying to get some rest on a Steilacoom beach, not too far from several harbor seal rookeries. Only about a week or so old, the tiny pup, alone on shore, was continually “harassed” by people. Most times, a mom will take her pup with her while she forages; however, if the pup is not strong enough to swim for long periods (or has health issues) she will sometimes leave her pup, returning later to nurse. Quite possibly, the mom did not return because of all the human activity. Adult harbor seals are extremely shy and wary of people and will too often abandon their young under these circumstances.

Due to the illegal harassment, WDFW’s Marine Mammal Investigations Unit was forced to take the pup from the beach. Since she could not forage for herself and therefore was not a candidate for relocation to another area, she was taken to PAWS. Upon arrival at the Lynnwood facility, the little female was fluidated and stabilized. After several months of rehab, packing on blubber weight and learning to fish on her own, she was finally released back into the wild.

Seal Sitters is excited to have the opportunity to protect this jewel of a pup, nicknamed Ruby, who has travelled so far and faced such challenges. Under the watchful eye of our West Seattle community, she will get the rest she needs. Ruby returned to Elliott Bay mid-afternoon and has been spotted foraging offshore at Jack Block Park the past two days.

Please check back for additional details about the human interference and her subsequent treatment at PAWS as we gather more information. We had tentatively named the pup Gypsy because of her travels, before realizing we had a pup by that name in September of 2011, who, coincidentally, was also harassed by people.
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