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Seal pup Little Dipper returned to the wilds of Puget Sound

Seal Sitters is thrilled to report that harbor seal pup Little Dipper, rescued by authorized First Responders from a Lincoln Park beach in late June, has been released back home to Puget Sound. The newborn, full-term harbor seal pup had been abandoned by his mom - most likely due to human activity and the presence of 4 off-leash dogs on the beach in the park.

Little Dipper’s stint of rehabilitation at PAWS Wildlife Center (intake exam photo at left) was a bit longer than a typical two-month duration because he was slow to pack on weight. A newborn seal pup in rehab must be taught to eat whole fish since they are not able to learn from other seals in the wild. When finally released on October 9th, he weighed over 30 kgs (66+ lbs) - a true blubberball! The pup weighed only about 18 lbs when taken in for stabilization and treatment.

Little Dipper, now sporting a brightly-colored rehab tag on his rear flipper, still faces big challenges in the wild. The 50% chance odds of survival his first year are not statistically reduced. However, at least now he has a thick layer of blubber fat to keep him warm in the cold waters and to provide energy to sustain him while learning to hunt on his own.

Little Dipper was released, along with another rehabilitated seal pup, near a harbor seal haulout. The photo at right shows Little Dipper emerging from his kennel on the boat transom, seconds before plunging into the water and swimming off. We so hope that these two young pups navigate the waters successfully and thrive together in the vast expanse of Puget Sound - and find safety when resting onshore.

Seal Sitters MMSN extends heartfelt thanks to the dedicated staff at PAWS for giving Little Dipper a second chance at life and generously providing photos to share with volunteers and the public.

If you see a seal pup (or any marine mammal) with a tag and are able to get the number thru binoculars or with a telephoto lens at a distance, please forward the location information and photos to Seal Sitters.

Rescued and rehabbed pup Junebug goes home to the wild

We just received word that seal pup Junebug was released back home to Puget Sound on August 26th after a lengthy rehabilitation at PAWS Wildlife Center. He was sporting an orange flipper tag for i.d. purposes in case of future sightings, injury or illness.

The abandoned and estimated only 5-8 day old pup was rescued by Seal Sitters MMSN from West Seattle’s Duwamish Head on July 1st. He weighed only 8.6 kg upon intake at the Lynnwood urgent care facility. Junebug was a whopping 31.1 kg on release day (see photo courtesy of PAWS). The tubby pup was released at a known harbor seal haulout near Everett with the help of the Coast Guard.

Rehab for newborn seal pups - and weaned pups - is a lengthy process, as indicated by Junebug’s two-month stay at PAWS. There is no evidence that a fattened up rehab pup has greater odds of survival than wild-weaned ones. All pups face 50% mortality their first year and some would argue that a week-old rehabbed pup who has not been taught to forage in the wild faces even worse odds.

In late January of 2013, Seal Sitters’ first responder noticed a red tag on a pup resting near Salty’s on Harbor Avenue (rehab tags changed from red to orange in 2014). A check in the stranding network database revealed that the pup, whom volunteers nicknamed Ruby, had been rehabbed at PAWS and released in October of 2012 at a harbor seal haulout south of Tacoma. Ruby had made the long trek to Seattle and Seal Sitters volunteers watched over her almost every day - keeping her safe from disturbance - for the next few months at West Seattle’s Jack Block Park. She befriended another weaner pup nicknamed Buddy at the park, but they finally travelled on at the end of April.

The Marine Mammal Stranding Network would like to receive reports which include i.d. numbers of tagged seals, dead or alive. With respect to harbor seal pups, these reports are extremely helpful in determining the survival rate of rehabilitated animals.

Thanks so much to PAWS Wildlife Center and their awesome staff for giving Junebug a second chance at life!

Seal pup rescued by Seal Sitters returns home to Puget Sound

Seal pup Snapper, rescued from the beach just south of Constellation Park in early August (shown at right) ,was released back into the wild last week. The extremely emaciated male pup, weighing just over 19 lbs, was taken to PAWS Wildlife Center where he spent months building strength and gaining weight under the care of wildlife rehabbers.

PAWS reports that a Coast Guard auxiliary crew assisted in releasing the pup, sporting an identification tag on his rear flipper, near Everetty’s Jetty Island, an area with a well established harbor seal haul-out. Snapper is shown here looking back at the boat as he swims off to get a second chance at life.

We are thrilled to report that Snapper weighed a whopping 73 lbs when released - a true blubberball. This fat layer will help sustain the pup as he learns to forage in the huge expanse of Puget Sound. Huge flipper hugs to PAWS’ dedicated and amazing staff and the Coast Guard!

Satellite Sandy spreads her wings in the Salish Sea

Sandy, the rehabilitated satellite-tagged seal pup, is expanding her horizons in South Puget Sound. After being released near a harbor seal haul out a couple of weeks ago, she stayed pretty close to her new island home. But over the past two days, she has ventured much farther south - to Budd Bay near Olympia, where there is a huge log boom used by seals year-round to rest and, during pupping season, give birth and nurse their young. In fact, it’s such a distance that there was speculation she might have hitched a ride on a passing log boom being towed south by a tugboat. Seals do often hop on log booms as they cruise by, take a snooze and wake up many miles from where they started.

Sandy’s beacon tag gives location hits depending on the number of satellites in the area and whether Sandy is on land or underwater when a satellite is near. Based on the most recent data (more detailed than the map shown here), WDFW’s marine mammal biologist was able to determine that it was more likely that she swam to her new location. Dr. Joseph Gaydos from SeaDoc Society says, “We’ve seen other seals (satellite tagged pups) move even greater distances in shorter periods of time. They can ride the current, which as you know can be quite powerful in places. That combined with swimming can really propel them!” The great news is that Sandy is choosing areas that have lots of seals, so she appears to be adapting well to life in the wild.

You can follow Sandy’s travels on SeaDoc’s website. In fact, you can even get an email alert when passing satellites pick up her signal. Check out Sandy’s dedicated page here. And, if you happen across a log boom, grab your binocs and see if there is a seal or two catching some zzzz’s - maybe you’ll even see Sandy with her fancy yellow hat!

Seal pup Sandy released back into the wild

On August 14, 2011, Seal Sitters MMSN responded to a pup in West Seattle that was just a few weeks old and named her Sandy. The pup spent that night on the beach under observation. The next morning, the pup was extremely weak and barely responsive, with numerous infected wounds and no apparent mom. She was severely dehydrated and malnourished to the point of emaciation. Seal Sitters transferred her to PAWS Wildlife Rehabilitation Center for stabilization, treatment and care. On Friday, January 27, after five months of rehabilitation, she was released near a harbor seal haul out in South Puget Sound. Sandy will provide invaluable data to the network.

Every year harbor seal pups that strand and are rehabilitated are released back into the wild. Last year, 10 rehabilitated pups provided novel data on how these animals move post release as compared to wild seals. Sandy, an older rehabilitated weaned pup, will be the first of this age class to be tracked by satellite in Washington State. The video above shows her being fitted with a satellite transmitter and released back home to the Salish Sea.

Sandy’s movements will provide ground-breaking information for biologists. She can be tracked by the public as well on SeaDoc Society’s website, which has a web page dedicated to her, showing a map of her cruising around South Puget Sound. In the photo above, Sandy swims in the wild with her new satellite hat. Tracking this animal would not be possible without the collaboration of several network groups which include: Seal Sitters MMSN, PAWS Wildlife Center, WDFW Marine Mammal Investigations, SeaDoc Society and NOAA’s Protected Resources Division.

PUPDATE: Feb 2/2012
We have had some folks with concerns that the satellite tag is somehow harmful for Sandy. The tag is applied with glue to Sandy’s pelt and will fall off when she sheds her fur during molting season in a few months. Most likely, the tag will fall off before then; however, in the interim, the satellite tracking will provide researchers with insights into foraging patterns, distances travelled by weaned pups and health and mortality data. This research will help other seal pups in the future.
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