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Rough winter for West Seattle seal pups as another succumbs

Winter has brought not only occasional snow flurries, but a rather steady flurry of weaned harbor seal pups, struggling to survive the cold and wet months here in the Pacific Northwest. Early in the morning of February 8th at West Seattle’s Alki Beach, Seal Sitters rescued a seal pup with bloody mucous oozing from her mouth.

A pup had been reported in the same location two evenings earlier, but was gone when First Responder David arrived minutes after the call. Late that night, the pup came back ashore; however, the beach was empty once again at 6am. Later that afternoon, the hotline received another call. First Responder Melinda made her way to the beach in very slushy conditions after a winter storm hit Seattle and nicknamed the pup Slushpuppy. With the help of volunteers, she taped off access to the area around the small, alert seal. After about an hour, blood was seen drooling from the pup’s face, but shortly thereafter a surprisingly nimble Slushpuppy scooted over a log, across the sand and disappeared into the gray waves.

Photographs revealed significant bloody discharge and plans were set into motion to capture the pup if sighted again. Early Wednesday, a beachcomber called Seal Sitters’ hotline to report Slushpuppy resting near the high tide line a little further down the beach. First Responders Robin and Lynn captured her and made the drive to PAWS. Sadly, Slushpuppy died overnight with severe breathing issues.

A necropsy by WDFW Marine Mammal Investigations revealed that the thin female’s lungs were a “total mess”. Along with multiple small abscesses and ruptures, there was a huge amount of clotted bloody mucous in the trachea and lungs. Lungworm infestation and migration was causing the clotting issues. Parasitic infestation and resulting complications, including pneumonia, is a common and often deadly issue for pups, who struggle with low body weight after weaning. Suppressed immune systems, further compromised by long, wet winters, allow parasites to take hold and wreak havoc on lungs and hearts.

Please, do give seal pups space on the beach to rest and warm up undisturbed - it is truly a matter of life and death.
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