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Cold temperatures don't deter resting seal pups - or volunteers

Lounging on a beach with temperatures in the 20’s may not sound terribly appealing, but for seal pups needing to rest, a frigid cold snap is no deterrent. Yesterday morning at 6 am our first responder checked Don Armeni Boat Launch to see if the pup from the night before might have hauled back out during the night. Sure enough, a small pup was at the tideline on the ramp, but the skittish pup disappeared into the black water of Elliott Bay.

Our responder waited about 20 minutes to see if the pup might resurface, but had a gut feeling that the pup might swim to the small beach at Duwamish Head. She drove the short distance and just as she peered down onto the dark beach, a pup hauled out. After the pup settled in, she proceeded to close off the beach steps and perimeter off the area above the sea wall. Throughout the day in icy temperatures frozen volunteers kept watch. The pup was still on the beach late last night, but was gone before sunrise this morning. While she could definitely pack on some pounds, she was not the terribly thin, coughing pup that had been at the boat ramp the night before. The pup was tentatively named Hermosa, but a comparison of id photos reveal that the pup was Roxy, who had first been sighted a day earlier at the Water Taxi landing with what appeared to be a deep gash. The cut was not apparent to volunteers yesterday.

Last night, the hotline received a frantic call that a pup that had swallowed a squid fishing jig at the Seacrest Park fishing pier. Seeing the pup swim north, the reporting party headed to Don Armeni boat launch where he discovered a pup on the beach. He called, saying there was a pup there who had swallowed a lure. Our first responders arrived at the boat launch within minutes and found a very fat pup resting on the south ramp. Thankfully, the pup was situated under a bright sodium vapor light. We studied the pup closely through binoculars, but could see no evidence of any lure or line or stressed behavior. Instead, the pup seemed very relaxed, stretching and yawing and alert to his surroundings. A perimeter with “Do Not Enter - Protected Marine Mammal” signs was established around the pup. We monitored him closely and sought expert advice from WDFW’s marine biologist. It was determined that it was unlikely he had ingested fishing gear. As late as 10:30 the pup, nicknamed Jigger, was sleeping soundly. Either the pup at the pier did not actually swallow a lure or this was a different pup. Squid is definitely on a seal pup’s menu and the bright lights that fishermen use to attract and catch squid, attract pups to lures as well.

At 5am this morning, our responder found Jigger sleeping, nestled up against the sea wall with only about a foot of beach. Jigger was not alone in the darkness at the boat launch. A blue heron patiently waited to snare a passing fish and a family of otters chattered and chirped at the end of the frosted dock. Finally, at 6:30 fat little blubberball Jigger returned to Elliott Bay, much to the relief of our tired responder in dire need of a shower and some hot coffee.

Busy response day for Seal Sitters volunteers

Today was a busy one for first responders and volunteers. Jack Block Park had seals on the abandoned dock and rocks near the pier as well as a pup snoozing on the protected beach. Our responder, checking the pier early this morning to see if any pups had climbed aboard the structure, noticed a very small pup hauling out on the rocks not 50 feet away just as huge, wet flakes of snow began swirling around her. She quickly closed off the entrance to the pier to give the very skittish little pup some quiet time.

Leaving the park, a man stopped her and said that someone was trying to feed bread to a seal near the water taxi landing. It is against federal law to feed a marine mammal. Thanks so much to that gentleman who apparently drove to Jack Block seeking out a volunteer. She located the pup, nicknamed Roxy (photo above), who appeared to have reasonably good body weight, but also about a 2” long, deep gash near the hip. The incoming tide had engulfed the rock he was resting on and, not too long afterwards, Roxy wiggled off the perch and swam away. Salt water has amazing healing properties, so we hope the wound won’t get infected and impair Roxy’s ability to forage.

Approximately 4:30 this afternoon, two of our first responders did a routine drive through the Don Armeni boat ramp while out on an errand. We regularly check the ramp for hauled out pups due to the extreme danger of that location. Sure enough, a pup was in the middle ramp. A tape perimeter was established and volunteers Theresa, Ana and Jenn gave up dinner to watch over the terribly thin, coughing pup. By 7 pm the pup, nicknamed Nicholas, was a great distance from the receding waterline due to tonight’s extreme low tide. About 30 minutes later, Nicholas began crawling his way back down the bumpy cement ramp to the water’s edge. Shortly before 8, after resting a short while, he disappeared into the waves in a silvery flash.

We will be on the lookout for both of these pups. Should you see a pup resting on shore, make sure to call our hotline at 206-905-7325 (SEAL).
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