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Moonshadow loses battle to survive

We are terribly sad to report that Moonshadow died at PAWS Wildlife Center in Lynnwood on Friday, November 29th. The pup was rescued from the beach at Duwamish Head (Anchor Park) early Thanksgiving morning and transported for stabilization and treatment.

Seal Sitters’ first responders and volunteers had observed Moonshadow over the course of a week as he came ashore almost every evening at dark and returned to the Sound near sunrise. On Sunday, he spent an uncharacteristic 22 hours on the beach which raised concern. The next day, however, Moonshadow returned to his behavior of 12-14 or so hours on shore. Still, it was evident that the pup was having some health issues, though he was not exhibiting severe symptoms such as prolonged coughing. On Wednesday morning the pup remained on the beach at daylight, but was at the tide line and capture was too risky. Responders had to be assured that we could successfully capture Moonshadow - if we were not successful, the frightened pup would most likely abandon this relatively safe haul-out site (a small beach with only one public entrance, blocked off with Protected Marine Mammal tape to deter access). Because of PAWS shortened winter hours, a capture could not be performed after dark. Early Thanksgiving morning, the sleeping pup had blood from the nose and the conditions were ripe for capture. First responders swiftly swept up the pup and transported him to PAWS.

Moonshadow weighed 11.7 kg on intake Thanksgiving morning - certainly thin, but not as thin as most of the pups we have protected this year. He did exhibit discharge from the nose and mouth. The pup died overnight.

Heartfelt thanks to PAWS’ staff and Dr. Bethany Groves for performing the necropsy in hopes to determine cause of death. The necropsy revealed that his airways were “jam-packed” with adult lungworms and the pup had parasite-related nodules throughout his lungs. Additionally, Moonshadow had pneumonia, likely due to the parasitic infestation. This infection is likely the cause of death. The pup also had a large number of roundworms in his stomach, but no food. Medical treatment to kill off such a high worm load can be extremely dangerous in itself to a weak pup. All weaned pups have some level of parasite load this time of year, but those with weakened immune systems are often not strong enough to keep opportunistic parasites and related viruses at bay - a very sad and hard fact.

Thanks to Seal Sitters’ many dedicated volunteers and a concerned public who allowed Moonshadow to rest undisturbed on this urban beach. Moonshadow’s death reinforces just how vulnerable these seal pups are and how quickly their health can tailspin. Sharing the shore gives them a much better chance to survive.
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