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Ruby the rehabbed seal enjoys safer shores of West Seattle

Ruby, the rehabbed seal pup released back to the wild last October near Tacoma, seems to have settled into the relatively safe area of West Seattle’s Jack Block Park, which is monitored throughout the day by Seal Sitters volunteers. Sporting her red flipper id tag, she has been sighted foraging there the past three days. With a number of harbor seals of all age classes using this park, it is our hope that she will assimilate into the group that rests daily on the inaccessible, abandoned dock.

We have learned more about the human interference that landed her in PAWS rehab facility last July. According to WDFW Marine Mammal Investigations, over a period of several days, Ruby had been coming and going from the beach at a park near Steilacoom’s old Saltar Marina. There were reports of her being “poked with sticks” and people pouring water over her. Because she had been harassed by people and apparently abandoned, she was taken to PAWS.

Ruby was given a new lease on life by the wildlife center. Merely a week or so old, she was thin and weighed only 18 lbs. She had some breathing issues and was treated for lungworm. Under PAWS care, she grew into a true “blubberball”, weighing 59 lbs when released in October. Since Ruby was not taught foraging skills by her mom, she would need this fat layer to sustain her while she learned to hunt in the wild. Learning to catch fish in a small rehab pool is very different from catching fast, darting fish in the expanse of Puget Sound.

Ruby’s story drives home the message to STAY AWAY FROM SEAL PUPS. While we cannot say for sure the reason for her presence on shore, perhaps because of her breathing issues and the fact that she couldn’t swim for long periods of time, Ruby was left there while her mom foraged, fully intending to return to nurse her youngster. If a shy mother seal sees people and dogs around her pup, it is extremely likely she will not return. A pup’s best chance for a full and healthy life is always with the mother, learning the skills not only to survive, but to thrive. A rehab facility cannot substitute for a mother’s teachings. SeaDoc Society published some interesting findings from a study comparing the foraging habits of wild weaned seal pups versus rehabilitated pups. The study shows that rehabbed pups travel much longer distances foraging for food than pups raised in the wild. Read it here. Seal Sitters’ seal pup Sandy, rehabbed by PAWS, travelled extensively, too, in search of food only to end up dead, entangled in marine debris.

Seal Sitters hopes Ruby continues to remain in West Seattle where our astute community will make sure she is protected and able to rest undisturbed. If you see a seal pup with a red flipper tag (or, of course, any marine mammal on shore), make sure to call our hotline immediately @ 206-905-7325 (SEAL). We want precious little Ruby to know she is safe on our shores and hopes she packs on a little more blubber.
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