Jan/26/13 06:01 AM
We have learned more about the human interference that landed her in PAWS rehab facility last July. According to WDFW Marine Mammal Investigations, over a period of several days, Ruby had been coming and going from the beach at a park near Steilacoom’s old Saltar Marina. There were reports of her being “poked with sticks” and people pouring water over her. Because she had been harassed by people and apparently abandoned, she was taken to PAWS.
Ruby was given a new lease on life by the wildlife center. Merely a week or so old, she was thin and weighed only 18 lbs. She had some breathing issues and was treated for lungworm. Under PAWS care, she grew into a true “blubberball”, weighing 59 lbs when released in October. Since Ruby was not taught foraging skills by her mom, she would need this fat layer to sustain her while she learned to hunt in the wild. Learning to catch fish in a small rehab pool is very different from catching fast, darting fish in the expanse of Puget Sound.
Ruby’s story drives home the message to STAY AWAY FROM SEAL PUPS. While we cannot say for sure the reason for her presence on shore, perhaps because of her breathing issues and the fact that she couldn’t swim for long periods of time, Ruby was left there while her mom foraged, fully intending to return to nurse her youngster. If a shy mother seal sees people and dogs around her pup, it is extremely likely she will not return. A pup’s best chance for a full and healthy life is always with the mother, learning the skills not only to survive, but to thrive. A rehab facility cannot substitute for a mother’s teachings. SeaDoc Society published some interesting findings from a study comparing the foraging habits of wild weaned seal pups versus rehabilitated pups. The study shows that rehabbed pups travel much longer distances foraging for food than pups raised in the wild. Read it here. Seal Sitters’ seal pup Sandy, rehabbed by PAWS, travelled extensively, too, in search of food only to end up dead, entangled in marine debris.
Seal Sitters hopes Ruby continues to remain in West Seattle where our astute community will make sure she is protected and able to rest undisturbed. If you see a seal pup with a red flipper tag (or, of course, any marine mammal on shore), make sure to call our hotline immediately @ 206-905-7325 (SEAL). We want precious little Ruby to know she is safe on our shores and hopes she packs on a little more blubber.
Jan/24/13 09:01 PM
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.
Sep/24/11 09:16 PM
Late afternoon, the hotline received a call about a pup on a beach near the Fauntleroy ferry (photo at right). A ferry worker told our responder that a man was “petting” the pup before we arrived. It is against federal law to touch or harass a seal, punishable by fine and/or imprisonment. An off-leash dog also reportedly had caused the pup to leave the beach, but after the dog left he returned. Our responder explained to the very inebriated (and thankfully congenial) man sitting on a log just inches from the pup that he needed to move away and she taped off the area. Volunteers stood watch on the beach, intercepting a man jogging along the shore’s edge and another walking with an off-leash dog. Both men were extremely cooperative and considerate when informed of the pup’s presence. This very small pup has been identified as Gypsy, who spent an evening on the beach at Lincoln Park on the 21st. Gypsy swam off into the Sound as evening fell - hopefully to fatten up a bit.
Thanks so much to all of you who are calling in reports to our hotline. You are truly our eyes on the beach and make a tremendous difference in our ability to protect these terribly vulnerable pups. And, as always, thanks to our volunteers who are putting in mega-hours!
Sep/13/11 08:40 AM
Seal Sitters has responded to two incidents the past few days involving human interference in the Everett area, both by well-meaning but misguided folks. Never pour water or place clothing or towels over seal pups. Material placed over a struggling pup can cause severe health consequences from over-heating. It is a federal offense to touch, move or feed a marine mammal as written into the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972. Keep your distance from a seal pup or seal on the beach and call the stranding network or NOAA Hotline. Violators will be prosecuted or heavily fined by NOAA’s Office for Law Enforcement.
In West Seattle over the past few days, we had two incidents of off leash dogs with owners who flagrantly violated the “no dogs on beach” ordinance - with the knowledge that there was a seal pup on the beach. In the case yesterday, a woman running on the beach refused to control and leash her dog, even after being informed that we had a very small pup on the rocks. As they ran by, seal pup Henry was scared and fell deep into a hole in the rocks, distressed and apparently stuck. As our volunteers scrambled to assess how to intervene for a rescue if necessary, Henry managed to free himself and crawl out onto the beach. Our volunteers remained on the beach to prevent any further incidents. Every year dogs maul or kill seal pups in the Northwest. All persons willfully violating the MMPA will be reported to NOAA Office for Law Enforcement. A violation includes an act by a human that in any way alters the behavior of a marine mammal - including causing them to relocate. Seal Sitters tries our best to maintain a reasonable perimeter so that a pup may rest undisturbed in a very urban environment. Please be respectful of seals’ need to rest onshore!