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Wave of harbor seal yearlings keeps volunteers on alert

Seal Sitters volunteers have been trying to go with the flow for over a week now in West Seattle, as two (possibly three) harbor seal yearlings have been swimming ashore at various times each day along westside beaches. Early Saturday, the 17th, First Responder Robin followed up on a report of a seal near the Alki Lighthouse. She found a dark-coated yearling, sound asleep high up on the rocky beach and taped off the area to prevent access.

Brand new Seal Sitters volunteers Kelsey and Allison, virtually oozing enthusiasm, came down to help protect their first seal, who was nicknamed Wonder (above). A steady stream of volunteers in shifts looked over Wonder until the seal, born last year, returned to the water around 3:30.

The following day, Wonder was back onshore, nestled deep into the pile of large boulders beneath the Coast Guard lighthouse. After Wonder left the shore, a few hours later, two seals were spotted swimming just offshore by First Responders David and Eilene. To their surprise, a second yearling much lighter in color, crawled onto the pebbled beach and into the craggy rocks, a little closer to the point.

Volunteers were stationed on both sides of rocky Alki Point, warning beach walkers that a seal with compromised health was trying to rest. Periodically, volunteers had to climb up onto the rocks to see if the yearling was still sleeping there since he was not visible from down the beach. Dubbed Mystery (at right), he/she stayed until dark, finally leaving the beach at almost 9pm. Volunteers carefully picked their way over the large rocks for home.

While Wonder has continued to haul-out every single day, requiring many volunteer and responder hours, Mystery has not been sighted for several days. Both seals are exhibiting signs of respiratory issues, with coughing, discharge and parasites - common to young seals after their first hard winter.

Thanks to the many Seal Sitters hotline operators, volunteers, schedulers and first responders (too many to name) who have spent long hours every day trying to safeguard these two yearlings in varying locations, as well as a potential third who hauled out two evenings but was not identified due to darkness.

A special thanks to the members of the Coast Guard, especially Marina and Robin, who were so gracious to our volunteers. True to the Coasties’ motto, they were “Always ready” to help out and gave the hotline a heads up when the pups came ashore. At the end of one long day and night, they surprised our late-duty volunteers with s’mores, roasted over their firepit overlooking the Sound. Walking down the darkened beach, headed for home, First Responder Robin and volunteer Jonel laughed and wiped the gooey marshmallow and chocolate bliss from their cheeks and wind-blown hair. It was a sweet ending to a tiring day.
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