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Queen Latifah

Seal pups are tv stars - public service announcement airs

     
Our seal pups Queen Latifah, ET and Pebbles are now starring in Seal Sitters’ newly released PSA (public service announcement) which began airing on local tv stations this morning. KING 5 ran the PSA just before the Today Show - immense visibility for this very important message. Many, many thanks to KING 5! We are hoping that other stations in the area will begin broadcasting the :30 spot soon as well. This project was possible as a result of an in-kind grant awarded to Seal Sitters by the Neighborhood Matching Fund of Seattle Department of Neighborhoods.

Pupping season is just now beginning on the outer coast of Washington and Oregon. As you may know, last year there was a high visibility case of a couple who illegally removed a seal pup from the beach and took the pup back to their hotel. Thankfully, after the pup spent the night on the floor, they called authorities and the seal pup did survive after a long rehab at PAWS. There are many more human-involved incidents where the outcome is not such a happy one. The PSA stresses that it is normal for pups to be alone on the beach and to call the NW Stranding Network. This educational message will help keep both marine mammals and the public safe.

Huge thanks to Melinda Simon and John Larson of Gypsy Soul Productions for donating many hours to produce this professional message! Thanks also go to actress Tracey Conway (for her perfect voiceover) and sound engineer Jason Devore and Victory Studios - all who donated time and expertise to this project. Video footage by Robin Lindsey.

Seal pup recovered from Port of Seattle property

We are sad to report that the seal pup SS volunteers watched over Sunday night at Don Armeni boat ramp was found dead on the inaccessible, secured East beach at Jack Block Park early this morning. The pup (who was thin, but exhibited no overt signs of illness) had been observed over the past few days hauled out in different locations within the park. We would like to give special thanks to Port of Seattle Police officer Julia Tanga, T5 security officer Charles and terminal manager Kelly of Eagle Marine Services for their help today in allowing our first responder access to recover the body for necropsy. The necropsies performed by WDFW’s marine mammal biologist are critical in monitoring the health of our seal and sea lion population. We will keep you updated with the necropsy results, so please check back.

     
While it seems like lately we having our fair share of sad news, Seal Sitters would like to remind everyone that we have had some very fat, happy blubberballs this year - our celebrities Pebbles, ET and Queen Latifah - and a number of other pups who have shared our shore. And we shouldn’t forget our big success story of the season - the rehabilitation and release of Storm. Our seal pups have been unusually healthy this year as opposed to years past. As we know, pups only have a 50% chance of surviving that first year of life, so it’s critical that we give them the best chance possible to thrive. While our volunteers do have some terribly sad days, the joys of our work far outweigh the sorrows. Winter may be a challenging time, but rest assured we do have some very healthy looking seals hanging around. In fact, there were 5 seals of varying ages resting on an abandoned pier before dawn yesterday - a beautiful sight to behold in this video clip. The rising tide finally encouraged them to return to Elliott Bay. It is a sight like this that can lift the spirits of a very saddened volunteer and remind us of the very important work we do.

Seal pups seek rest from stormy waters

     
Three seal pups visited our shores today - just when we thought things might be slowing down a bit. Early this morning we received a call from some alert City-side condo residents that a pup was on the beach near the water taxi. Unfortunately, the pup was scared back into the water before volunteers could respond. Shortly thereafter, our hotline received another call that a pup was on the steps leading to the beach on the Alki side. Our volunteer was surprised to find the pup at the top of the steps level with the sidewalk. We quickly established a perimeter with yellow Protected Marine Mammal tape and informational signs.

The pup was alert with good body weight. Examination of telephoto images revealed some green discharge around the eyes; however, all in all, the pup looked to be in good health. The pup was 15 steps above the water level. Apparently he came in at high tide and probably worked his way up a few steps to the top so he could rest undisturbed by surging waves. 
    
The pup, nicknamed Bonair, finally returned to the Sound at 8:03 tonight, much to the relief of cold and wet volunteers. To our dismay, when he finally decided to venture back to the water, he considered a high-dive from the top step and would have suffered severe injuries on the exposed rocks below. Thankfully, he opted for the safer route down the steps, but decided about midway to take the plunge. Our volunteer saw a big splash and was relieved to see that he landed in a shallow pool at the base of the stairs, missing the rocks, and disappeared into the dark waters. Bonair had at least a 14 hour rest today after most likely riding out the rough waters throughout the night. Thanks to the volunteers who protected him on this blustery and cold day!

Queen Latifah also made an appearance today, looking nice and plump and alert and back on her favorite rock. She has developed quite the fan club. All of our recent pups have picked highly visible spots to haul out. They are providing an unparalleled opportunity for people to observe and discover the joy of seal pups. To learn more about how tides affect haulout patterns, click here.





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.

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.

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!

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.

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 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.

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 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.

Weaned pups finding good food source in Elliott Bay

     
ET and Queen Latifah, the two weaned pups who have been entertaining Seal Sitters of late, seem to have successfully learned to forage on their own. Unlike many pups who struggle to survive when they no longer have mom’s rich milk to sustain them, these pups appear to be thriving.

What do weaned pups eat? According to WDFW’s marine mammal research biologist, seal pups will eat just about anything they can get their little flippers on. They prefer the tiny fish like shiner perch, 3 spined sticklebacks, starry flounder, gunnel (a favorite of the cormorants as well), midshipmen (the fish, not the sailors), shrimp and squid.

Latifah is particularly successful at hunting as you can see from her curvy physique! Most weaned pups are terribly thin as they make the difficult transition to life on their own. We are thrilled that both of our City-side pups are doing so well.





Thin seal pup enjoys the morning sun on Alki

     
A too-thin pup hauled out early yesterday morning just as our volunteer Jennifer happened to be walking the beach. This pup with a rather serious expression, nicknamed Mad Mimi, was very alert, but was able to get a couple of hours rest since the beach was relatively deserted. From the steps near the volleyball courts, the occasional passersby were treated to a very good view of Mimi stretching in the sun. The pup’s markings were very similar to Pebbles, but id photos confirm that this is a new pup on our shores. Photos of the teeth indicate that this is one of our youngest weaned pups - in fact, perhaps weaned a bit too young. A weaned pup can expend their blubber layer and return to their birth weight within a couple of weeks of weaning if they are not successful at foraging on their own. Therefore, this is a critical time that determines their survival and we do not want them wasting precious calories by being scared back into the water. A flock of crows fluttered around the pup, cawing and creating a bit of a ruckus. The pup returned to the water when soaked by a large sneaker wave (see video - not the best sound due to high winds), but was not spotted on shore again. We will be on the alert for Mimi. As always, please call our hotline @ 206-905-SEAL (7325) if you see any marine mammal on the beach.

Both Queen Latifah and ET hauled out on the city-side rocks again yesterday. The “queen” is on her way to breaking Pebbles’ consecutive day haul out record! Thankfully, the pups are hauling out in areas that do not require constant vigilance by our volunteers.

Seal pup ET finds new home on our shores

     
The tagged pup from the island rookeries far away in South Puget Sound rested on the rocks again yesterday. Despite the wounds which still are quite infected, his body weight looks reasonably good for a weaned pup. WDFW says that in comparing our photos to the day he was tagged, the wounds do look like they are starting to heal - a long process when a pup has a depressed immune system to begin with. This pup has been named ET by our volunteers because of the similarity to the movie character and also because this pup, too, has travelled so far from home. As long as ET continues to come and go on his own and maintains a fairly healthy body weight, it is the opinion of the biologist that no rescue be attempted. Late yesterday, ET (shown here finding shelter in the wind and rain) had company on the rocks - Queen Latifah hauled out about twenty feet away from him. This seems to be a popular and very safe spot for our weaned pups. There are lots of little fish about and the cormorants are feasting on them as well.

Seal pup takes break from storm on Alki Beach

     
Late this afternoon, a pup had a respite from today’s stormy weather on Alki Beach, directly across from Duke’s Chowder House. The couple who watched over the seemingly healthy and alert pup until our volunteer arrived aptly named him Duke. A series of crashing waves and an incoming tide prompted the pup to return quite suddenly to the Sound - just minutes before a pounding rain hit West Seattle. This pup was on the thin side as most of the weaned pups tend to be. That is, except for our full-figured beauty, Queen Latifah, who hauled out yet again today on the City side.

Ebb and flow determines haul out patterns of pups

     
The ebb and flow of tides greatly affects the haul out patterns of seals and seal pups. The pups that are currently using the City-side rocks for their haulout take advantage of the high tide to secure a spot far up on the rocks. This ensures that when the water level recedes, they are able to rest for many hours without being disturbed by encroaching waves.

In the photo above, taken at late afternoon’s high tide, you can see Queen Latifah (on the right) who has just hauled out, along with another yet unidentified pup (on the left) who had been hauled out since the prior high tide at 7am. In the opposite photo, you can see the pup sleeping on the same rock at low tide - quite a disturbing sight to onlookers who worry that the pup is stranded.

     
If you have ever wondered why we’ve had a number of pups on the Alki steps or even on the sea wall, this is the reason why. They come in at high tide, which gives them easy access, and they rest until the tide returns. Read the story of Forte, the world’s smartest seal pup, here. Forte came in at high tide and settled right under the Marine Mammal Protection sign on the sea wall at Alki.

There are many factors which determine the haul out patterns of seals - and not all seals haul out at high tide. There are some haul outs that are only accessible at low tide. Other sites are accessible at all times and access is not affected by tidal influence. So, patterns appear to be site specific, but time of day, time of season, air temperature, wind and precipitation are all factors in addition to tidal heights. You can read one of many scientific papers on haul out patterns here.

UPDATE: The unidentified pup here came to be known as ET.

Pups still hanging around West Seattle

     
Pups are still hanging around West Seattle, but they are now weaned and much more wary of people. Therefore, they are avoiding places that are easily accessible by people, so we’re not seeing them as often lounging on our shores. One pup, dubbed Queen Latifah for her rubenesque figure, continues to haul out on the rocks on the City side. She really knows how to forage! Two other pups have been seen at this location. According to marine mammal research biologist, Dyanna Lambourn, often when one pup hauls out in an area others follow suit. As she explains, there is safety in numbers for seal pups. One of the pups, unfortunately, is not doing so well with a severe cut on the underside of the neck and some other health issues. Please keep a distance when observing any of the pups at this location. These photos were taken with an extreme telephoto lens.

Queen Latifah is very alert. In the video embedded here you can see how the pup responds to noise from rumbling garbage trucks and people walking above her on Harbor Avenue. You can also see how resilient she is in her desire to rest onshore as the water rushes over her.

Pups hanging out in nooks and crannies

     
Seal pups are still hanging out in West Seattle, but seem to be choosing more tucked away (and safer) spots than on our busy beaches. The pups, now weaned, are much more alert and skittish than when they were younger and slept trustingly on our shores. Please keep this in mind if you come across a pup and try your best not to scare them back into the water. The past couple of days a very robust and alert pup, Queen Latifah, has been hauling out on the rocks on the City side. If there are too many disruptions nearby, the pup quickly disappears back into Elliott Bay. Rocks at the water’s edge prove to be a much quicker escape than maneuvering across an expanse of sand or pebbles. It’s reassuring to see such a healthy looking pup after a recent string of deaths.
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