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Seal pup rescued by stranding team is stable at rehab facility

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For the second early morning in a row, First Responder Lynn whipped on layers of long underwear, fleece and down and headed to a small cove next to the West Seattle Water Taxi. Responding to a call from Seal Sitters’ hotline (206-905-7325) about a seal on shore, thanks to volunteer John who happened to spy the pup on a walk, she found the alert harbor seal pup nestled up next to a large log on the pebbled beach.

The curious pup, estimated 4-6 months old, watched as Lynn closed off the area, stretching yellow tape between orange cones and sandwich boards, around a picnic table and a prickly “sticker” bush, since the ground was too frozen to pound in stakes. Reluctantly removing her glove in the frigid 24 degree air, she speed dialed the Volunteer Scheduler for the day, Jonel, who began lining up Seal Sitters for what could potentially be another long day on the beach. On Wednesday, this same pup nicknamed Hope, did not return to the water until around 5pm, well after dark.

While John and Lynn kept Hope safe from disturbance, First Responder Robin began the process of lining up a health assessment by a NOAA-authorized consulting veterinarian, a recently implemented program to assist stranding networks with on-the-beach evaluations. Handling and transporting an animal for evaluation causes undue stress, which has its own negative impacts. Examinations are only done when there is sufficient cause or concern.

The day before, volunteers noticed the pup had a number of pale bloody spots on her white coat - perhaps Hope had a serious case flipper lice and had been scratching the areas raw. However, in closer review of photos on a computer that evening, things looked suspicious. There was a possibility these were punctures, though difficult to tell in the roughened fur. The only way to know for sure would be a closer examination and we were lucky that the pup had indeed returned for another day of rest.

After consulting with regional coordinator for NOAA’s Marine Mammal Stranding Network, Kristin Wilkinson, a call was placed to PAWS Wildlife Center to ensure the facility could accept the pup for treatment if necessary. The next call was placed to Dr. Lesanna Lahner, consulting vet and Executive Director of the newly-formed SR3, a non-profit dedicated to marine mammal health.

Early in the afternoon, the team of Seal Sitters responders and SR3’s Dr. Lahner and Casey Mclean discussed the next steps, while observing the sleeping pup. As the team approached, the now awake and feisty pup was captured with a net and examined on the beach. Blood oozed from what was definitely many puncture wounds. It was obvious Hope needed to get treatment. Seal Sitters volunteer Bob offered to make the long drive north and transport Hope to PAWS in Lynnwood. Upon arrival, rehabbers stabilized the pup and cleaned out her wounds.

We were stunned to learn that Hope, a female weighing about 34 lbs, had more than 20 puncture wounds on her small body, believed to be from an unidentified animal(s) - possibly canine, but unable to say with any certainty at this time. Thankfully, the bites were not deep and not yet abscessed.

Hope survived the night, but PAWS staff is cautious about her survival, as there are some bleeding issues not really explained by the superficial wounds. The reason for the bleeding continues to be investigated. She has been given a little pool to help keep her hydrated and active and the wounds moist. Hope is also receiving treatment for parasites, common for all weaned seal pups during winter months, which contributed to her occasional coughing spells on the beach and often leads to serious viral conditions.

Seal Sitters will keep you posted about Hope’s condition and any new information that comes to light regarding the cause of the puncture wounds. Thanks to all of the volunteers who protected the little pup during her stay on the beach and to supporting members of NOAA West Coast MMSN who assisted in her rescue. Heartfelt thanks to PAWS for their kind and expert care of wildlife. We hope for this pup’s recovery and release back to the waters of Puget Sound.

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Rain can't dampen Seal Sitters' spirits watching over a seal pup

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Seal Sitters’ First Responder Lynn discovered today that her “5-hour” foot warmers last exactly 5 hours before toes start to tingle. That’s well under the amount of time she spent out in the cold drizzle observing a seal pup, hauled out in the middle of Don Armeni boat launch.

The 3-6 month old pup was discovered asleep on the grooved cement ramp by First Responder David, on his way into downtown Seattle around 7am. The ramp, with its easy access and docks that attract small bait fish, has proven popular with pups over the years and volunteers drive through and check the location on a regular basis. Unfortunately, it is a dangerous destination since cars, trucks and boats - and people walking dogs - regularly pass by and a sleeping or sick pup could easily be injured.

David grabbed cones and barricades out of his car and taped a buffer zone around the area. Lynn arrived within minutes and Volunteer Scheduler Jonel checked the calendar to see which volunteers had entered in early hours. A steady stream of volunteers began arriving as soon as 7:30. Several boats were retrieved and launched near the pup’s resting spot. Boaters were more than cooperative, as volunteers directed incoming boats to the dockside away from the pup and pedestrians around the various trucks, trailers and vessels. The pup was alert to the activity, but managed to get in a number of naps in between.

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All available responders were called away at various times during a very hectic morning. Robin went to Vigor shipyard on Harbor Island to check on last night’s report of a possibly injured or ill seal pup, but the pup was gone early this morning. While David kept an eye on the boat launch, Lynn checked on the very decomposed California sea lion carcass in the cove just north of Seacrest Park. Meanwhile, Buzz dashed off to follow up on a report of a seal on the beach at Jack Block Park, but none was found.

Young Seal Sitters volunteers Cyrilla and Rydian named the boat ramp pup Flame, very appropriate for this season of candles and light. Because of the holidays, some of our volunteers were free to help out and several visitors from out of town were able to see their very first harbor seal.

Flame snoozed off and on all afternoon, despite all the traffic and onlookers just 30 feet away. Volunteers had their own version of a tailgate party as they sipped coffee to stay warm - though the sight of Flame was enough to keep all of us warm and fuzzy, lifting our spirits on an otherwise dreary day.

The pup moved down to the water’s edge around 3:20 and finally swam off into Elliott Bay at 4pm. After waiting to make sure Flame didn’t return, volunteers packed up materials and headed home, satisfied that they had ensured the pup’s safety today.

Volunteers celebrate Solstice on the beach

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Around the globe today, people of differing cultures celebrated Winter Solstice, an astronomical phenomenon creating the least hours of daylight and longest night of the year. Astronomers mark the day as the beginning of the winter season.

Late this morning, Seal Sitters celebrated the arrival of a harbor seal pup who came to rest on a West Seattle beach and enjoy every bit of lingering sunlight. The hotline received a call about a pup close to the sea wall on a public beach, just above the high tide line.


Yellow tape was strung, signs were posted by first responders and volunteers began to arrive. Appropriately enough, the alert pup was nicknamed Solstice.

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The pup settled in for a long snooze as excited passersby asked questions. In the spirit of the holiday season, volunteers donned Santa hats and merrily provided information about seal pups’ critical need for stress-free rest and the work of the Marine Mammal Stranding Network.

Solstice appeared in reasonably good health, but potentially has blindness in one eye. Seals can forage quite successfully, however, with limited vision and even complete blindness. Used to navigating and foraging in dark, murky waters, they use their whiskers (vibrissae), each of which contains up to 1,500 nerves, to locate prey by sensing vibrations up to 600 feet away. Seals have the amazing ability to determine the size (within 1.4 inches) and shape of prey with this technique. Read the German scientific study here.

Seal Sitters volunteers stayed until well after dark in brisk temperatures until Solstice finally flopped across the pebbled beach, back toward the cold waters of Puget Sound. After more than a month-long drought in seal pup responses, volunteers were thrilled to help keep Solstice safe while on shore.

Sunny day proves inviting for a little harbor seal hide and seek

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Following a long stretch of rainy weather - day after day - soggy Seattleites finally caught a much-needed break this afternoon, as the sun broke through the clouds and raised temps to the low 60’s.

Admiring the snow-dusted Olympic Mountains across from Weather Watch Park shortly after noon today, West Seattle resident Zach noticed a small harbor seal crawl out of the water and disappear into the driftwood strewn on the small beach. He immediately dialed Seal Sitters’ hotline (206-905-7325) and First Responder Lynn was on the scene within minutes.

Zach pointed out the logs that the seal pup, hidden from view on the neighborhood beach, had wriggled over and settled in between. Lynn and fellow First Responder Robin stretched tape to close off access so the pup could rest undisturbed. Occasionally, you could see a hint of whiskers or the stretch of a flipper. Periodically, as a noisy bus or motorcycle roared by on Beach Drive, a little white head would peer out to make sure all was safe.

Volunteers Eve, Cathy and John chatted with passersby about the pup, nicknamed Pipsqueak, who emerged from his (or her) hideaway around 2 and rested in full view on the beach before swimming off around 2:50. While not exactly chubby, Pipsqueak was alert and no health issues were noted.

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On a sad note, seal pup Pepper, rescued on October 17th and taken to PAWS after suffering seizures on the beach near the Fauntleroy ferry dock, did not survive. PAWS staff fought valiantly for a week to save the pup, but the small male had too many issues to overcome. Pepper was markedly thin with very little blubber thickness and was battling a lungworm infestation, a common health danger for seal pups in fall and winter months.

Busy week continues for volunteers as seal pups seek refuge

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For the third day in a row, Seal Sitters MMSN volunteers have responded to and protected seal pups seeking sanctuary along West Seattle’s Elliott Bay shoreline. Refuge is increasingly difficult for pups due to people and their recreation activities, including kayaking and diving, in the small coves.

Seals and sea lions of all ages spend about 50% of their day out of the water. The male sea lions that migrate to Elliott Bay each fall haul out on the mid-channel buoys. Their lively and loud barking can be heard as they compete for space on the small structures. Tiny harbor seal pups, on the other hand, need easy-access shoreline to rest and warm up.

About 5:20 last evening, as human activity tapered off, seal pup Snow Cone (above) came ashore at one of those small coves. As darkness set in, the cove was taped off and signs informing the public that “Harbor Seals Need to Rest” and “Don’t Touch Seal Pups - It’s the Law” were strategically placed along the perimeter.

Please, always keep your dog leashed near the beach. You never know when a vulnerable seal pup will be onshore, both day and night. Because of their unique mottled fur coats, seals are very difficult to notice on the beach and a dog’s keen sense of smell will discover a pup’s presence long before an owner does. That can often be too late to prevent injury or harm.

If you come across a seal resting on the beach, please notify Seal Sitters’ hotline at 206-905-SEAL(7325) immediately and, if at all possible, remain onsite and keep people away until responders can arrive. Undisrupted, stress-free rest is critical to harbor seal pups’ survival. Only half survive their first year.

Seal pup spends restful day with city skyline view

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Gazing out her condo window with its panoramic view of the Seattle skyline, West Seattle resident Connie was startled to see a small seal crawl ashore on the pocket beach below her. Grabbing her coat and camera, she dashed across Harbor Avenue to make sure no one scared the pup back into Elliott Bay before Seal Sitters could arrive. She immediately called our hotline @ 206-905-SEAL(7325).

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Upon arrival, SSMMSN first responders taped of access to the small cove. The bright white pup stretched and yawned and settled in for a few zzzz’s. Close to the sea wall and sidewalk, passersby had a perfect view of the gorgeous pup on what was finally a rain-free afternoon, following a torrential morning downpour.

Nicknamed Snow Cone, the seemingly healthy pup rested as Seal Sitters educated the public, including the periodic stream of Water Taxi commuters, and kept watch in shifts throughout the day and evening at this very scenic location. Divers were allowed through the far opposite end of the cove to access a popular dive site.

Around 8pm, with the skyline lights shimmering across the bay, Snow Cone returned to the dark waters for a late dinner and volunteers dispersed for their own late dinners. Thanks to the volunteers, some of whom are shown above, for keeping the pup safe.

Seal pup rescued and transported for stabilization

Yesterday morning, Seal Sitters First Responders Robin and Dana rushed to a small public access beach next to the Fauntleroy ferry booths. Hotline operator Emily had received a report of a harbor seal pup that appeared sick or injured.

Upon arrival, the concerned couple who had called the hotline pointed out the pup, near the tideline just north of the dock. Tape was stretched across the sand to establish a restricted zone around the vulnerable seal who was having seizures. A call was urgently placed to PAWS Wildlife Center, the NOAA-approved treatment facility for our region.

The surrounding area within feet of the pup had numerous large dog prints. Imagine the stress - and panic - of this sick pup, a prey animal, immobile and unable to escape a perceived threat.

The pup was gently placed into a transport kennel and driven to the Lynnwood clinic for stabilization and treatment. The initial veterinary exam revealed that the he had a number of health issues, not the least of which was possible pneumonia and lung worm infection. Fall and winter months are extremely challenging for weaned pups, who are often thin and susceptible to parasites and viruses.

The young male survived the night, but still has a difficult road ahead. At last report, the pup was stabilized, but “very sick.”

Identification photos taken on the beach were compared with those of seal pups in this year’s database. He was positively identified as Pepper, who had been observed sleeping on Alki Beach late Friday night in a downpour. Pepper was gone at first light the following morning. We will provide updates on the pup as we receive more information.

Wind storm aftermath brings wave of seal pups

On Friday afternoon, a serious wind storm whipped and churned Puget Sound waters into a frenzy. Waves crashed over the sea walls along Beach Drive, leaving debris in its wake. Thankfully, harbor seals can actually sleep in the water when need be and will often ride out storms by bottom resting, rising to the surface every 25 minutes or so for a breath of air and returning to the sea bottom. This, instead of hauling out on shore and being battered by wind, rain and surf.

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Often, following a storm of this nature, we see an increase in seal pups seeking rest on the beach, warming up out of the cold waters. Late Friday night, as the winds calmed down, a small pup slept in the dark at Alki Beach, but was gone when our first responder checked about 5:40am.

Saturday, before the much-anticipated remnants of a Pacific typhoon was expected to power thru our region mid-late afternoon, there was a brief lull in the winds. True to form, the day was busy for seal responses.

Around 11am, the hotline called to report a seal pup near the West Seattle water taxi landing. Our responder arrived within minutes to find a pup sleeping soundly in a soft rain on the pebbled beach. She quickly closed off access to the small cove with yellow tape and informational signage.

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A call was placed to Volunteer Scheduler, Arden, who checked the online calendar and began making calls to those who had entered time for the day. New volunteers Cathy (who admirably also volunteers at PAWS), 5 1/2 year old Mia and her mom Erin (shown at left) donned rain gear and enthusiastically arrived for duty at the cove.

Volunteers chatted among themselves and with a surprising number of passersby, despite increasing rain and winds as the day went on. The pup, nicknamed Sea Glass, was able to sleep peacefully except for a brief, but persistent harassment by a juvenile sea gull. The feisty pup defended his territory and the gull finally moved on.

We also received a report mid-day that a seal pup was resting near the Fauntleroy ferry dock, but our first responder who was on the scene within 15 minutes found none.

Eventually, Sea Glass flop-hopped across the glistening pebbles and into the cozy nook of a large tree trunk on the beach (photo above). Sheltered from the increasing wind gusts and rain, he slept comfortably until dark. Around 6:20 the wind and rain hit with a vengeance and volunteers sought cover. Sea Glass returned to the Sound around 8:30 and the signage and tape was removed from the cove entrance.

Two seal pups and outreach keep volunteers busy

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Yesterday morning, on her way to lend a hand with set up of Seal Sitters’ booth at the Summer Parkways event on Alki, our first responder instead made a priority detour towards the Fauntleroy ferry, responding to a report from the hotline of a seal on the beach.

Upon her arrival, she saw a thin pup at the base of the ferry dock pilings and three off-leash dogs playing in the surf a couple hundred yards away. Briskly, she began stretching yellow tape between driftwood and stakes, with signs warning that harbor seals need rest to survive and “Do Not Enter”. Thankfully, the dogs’ owners did not approach.

Volunteers arrived to help out and, over the course of the next hour and a half, passersby and neighbors were excited to be able to see the fuzzy gray pup who snoozed in the shadows. This included two great young girls who watched through binoculars with their mom. They christened the pup Cooper.

As the tide crept in and reached the sleeping pup, Cooper reluctantly swam off in the cold waters of the cove, where another pup had been seen off and on lingering offshore. We hope they went off in search of a nutritious Sunday brunch of squid, threespine stickleback and gunnel.

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Late in the day, the hotline rang again: this time, a pup was sleeping on the public boat ramp at Don Armeni Park. Our responder was on the scene within minutes and, sure enough, a pup was zonked out on the crushed shell and sand part of one cement lane. Someone had kindly put three cones at the top of the ramp to warn the public not to enter and a handful of people were quietly watching from a distance.

Again, signboards and cones with stakes were placed strategically around the area and yellow tape was strung to establish a safety zone. Other volunteers arrived shortly and began talking to curious and excited observers. A spotting scope was set up so folks could get a closer look at the pup, who dozed comfortably. Thru the scope, it was noticed that the pup had a wound on his/her rear flipper.

Only a couple of boats launched and retrieved while the pup slept. The owners were more than happy to use the opposite dock to come and go. Thank you, boaters!

The onlookers were quite respectful and quiet - a good thing since harbor seals have excellent hearing. The sudden noise of the hand dryer in the nearby public bathroom disrupted the slumber. Roaring motorcycles and increasing traffic on Harbor Avenue startled the pup, who began stretching and yawning - often an indication that a pup will start a return to the water.

Soon after, Skipper (nicknamed by new volunteer Heather) began the trek to the tideline. Because of the open wound on his/her flipper, the rear end was high in the air the length of the journey (photo above). Salt water has great healing properties and there is an excellent chance the wound will heal on its own. Skipper disappeared into Elliott Bay’s silvery waters search of dinner.

Volunteers waited to make sure Skipper didn’t return before removing materials and heading home for our own dinners. Be assured, Seal Sitters will be keeping a close eye on Skipper if the pup returns to our shores to rest.

Should you see either pup - or any others - on shore, please make sure to call Seal Sitters’ dedicated hotline at 206-905 SEAL (7325).

Seal Sitters talks to over 300 at Summer Parkways

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Great weather brought out scores of people to enjoy the City of Seattle’s Summer Parkways event at Alki Beach on Sunday. Seal Sitters staffed a booth which featured educational materials, including seal pelts and skull. People who stopped by to talk with volunteers were fascinated to examine baleen from both a gray and fin whale. They learned that harbor seal pupping season is in full swing in South and Central Puget Sound.

Volunteers Lynn and Diana sketched marine mammal drawings in chalk on the street. The life-size outline of a 39-foot humpback whale (the size of the juvenile that stranded recently in West Seattle) drew lots attention and questions. At an art table beside the booth, children doodled bright crayons on coloring sheets with marine mammal themes.

Throughout the course of the day, Seal Sitters talked to 305 adults and children - a job well done to spread education about marine mammals, the health of our marine ecosystem and the work of the West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network, of which Seal Sitters MMSN is a partner. Thanks to the many volunteers who spent the day making our outreach possible.
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