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Seal Sitters new volunteer training scheduled for August

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Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network’s final training for the 2014 seal pupping season will take place on August 9th. There will be no further trainings until late fall due to time constraints on volunteers.

Last year’s record-breaking pupping season stats in West Seattle (from late July’s first response to a newborn seal pup to the end of the year’s weaned pups) included 163 responses to marine mammals, including 66 positively identified seal pups. For a summary of 2013’s activities,
click here.

This 2014 season has begun unusually early in West Seattle with responses to one full
lanugo seal pup “Luigi”, a second premature pup, and full-term “Junebug” who is now in rehab at PAWS Wildlife Center.

TRAINING DATE:
Saturday morning, August 9, 2014
Time:
10am - 12pm (doors open at 9:30am)
*please note: Plan to arrive early to register and receive paperwork - training begins promptly at 10
Location:
Alki UCC Church 6115 SW Hinds, Seattle (map it)
***A FEW SPOTS OPEN DUE TO LAST MINUTE CANCELLATIONS. Please contact us if you’d like to attend the training.

*Note to parents: All children accompanying adults must be able to sit quietly through an almost two hour presentation (with break).

Seal Sitters MMSN holds several special trainings a year for those wanting to protect marine mammals year-round along the shoreline of West Seattle and the Duwamish River. We are a very active network and have volunteers who travel from around the area to participate. However, if you live out of the West Seattle area and would like to find a stranding network closer to where you live, click here.

Unlike most marine mammal stranding networks, we encourage children to participate in Seal Sitters - supervised at all times, of course, by a parent or guardian. We are so proud of our amazing and dedicated volunteers who are on duty rain or shine - we hope you will join us!
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A multi-media presentation will illustrate our educational work in the community and the unique challenges of protecting seals and other marine mammals in an urban environment. Included in the training is an overview of
NOAA's West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network and biology and behavior of seals and other pinnipeds (due to time frame, supplementary off-season sessions will include more marine mammals of Puget Sound).

For additional questions and info or to be placed on a contact list for future training opportunities, please
email us.

Seal art crafts highlight booth at Alki Art Fair

                   

Seal Sitters’ booth buzzed with activity at this weekend’s Alki Art Fair held along the Alki Promenade (see video). Volunteers worked in shifts, distributing stickers and educational materials, and talked to 535 inquisitive people. Adjacent to the booth was our activity table, where kids (and adults) created works of art - origami seals with colorful spots and flippered paper cup versions.

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Thanks to all the enthusiastic volunteers who had a blast despite chilly and sometimes wet conditions these past two days, including University of Washington seniors Tayler and Ana (photo). Special kudos to Ana who raised enough money from friends and family to produce “Share the Shore” t-shirts as volunteer incentive rewards and for fundraising purposes. Way to go, Ana!

And speaking of fundraising, Alki Spud Fish & Chips donated $1 to Seal Sitters for each cup of clam chowder purchased this weekend. Lots of people sipped on the restaurant’s piping-hot delicacy in the cool, drizzly weather and raised money for Seal Sitters’ many operating expenses. Thanks so much to Alki Spud’s staff and management!

As long-time volunteer and scheduler Lynn J remarked while on duty today, it’s hard to beat volunteering for a group that spends time hanging out on the beach with awesome seals and awesome people.

We hope you’ll join us for Seal Sitters’ last training of the 2014 seal pupping season Saturday morning, August 9th (see details in post below - and make sure the RSVP to the included link).

Buy a chowder during Art Fair and help seal pup Spud's buds

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In 2007, a tiny seal pup flopped ashore on the sandy beach almost directly across from Alki Spud Fish and Chips (2666 Alki Ave SW - map it). Concerned residents banded together to protect this vulnerable pup and nicknamed him Spud. This loosely formed group grew to be known as Seal Sitters.

Now a full-fledged member of NOAA’s Marine Mammal Stranding Network with many operating expenses, Alki Spud Fish and Chips is helping Seal Sitters continue to help new generations of seal pups. All-volunteer Seal Sitters MMSN receives no funding from NOAA, the State or City for our work.

Spud’s restaurant (Alki location only) is offering a promotion that will donate $1 for every chowder purchased this weekend during the Alki Art Fair, July 19-20th. Spread the word to friends and family to chow down on some delicious chowder. Thanks so much to Spud Fish and Chips!

Seal Sitters MMSN depends on public donations. Can’t participate in the promotion this weekend, but would like to help us out financially? You can make a donation here.

STOP BY SEAL SITTERS BOOTH AND ACTIVITY TABLE
If you attend the Fair, make sure to swing by Seal Sitters’ booth along the Alki Promenade, where volunteers will be on duty answering questions and distributing educational materials. The Alki Art Fair is always a fun and lively event with lots of music, great art and food.

Like last year, we’ll have craft activities for kids as well as free stickers and coloring sheets. Seal Sitters’ first responder (and architectural illustrator) Lynn Shimamoto and her 7-year-old granddaughter Eleanor created some fantastic origami and paper cup seals which children can reproduce, adding their own whimsical touches.

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Volunteers take blubber love to the streets

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Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network volunteers are staffing a table at the ever-popular West Seattle Summer Fest this weekend at the Admiral Junction.

Over the course of Friday and Saturday, with temperatures soaring into the high 80’s, they swigged cold water and spritzed with hand fans as they talked to 249 adults and children who stopped by. Volunteers like Denise and Pam (in photo) answered questions and let folks know that harbor seal pupping season has begun in South Puget Sound.

Huge flipper hugs to SS event gurus David and Eilene and all the volunteers who are braving the heat to spread some blubber love and give out free stickers to kids! Please stop by our table at the GreenLife Demo Area today.

Next weekend July 19-20, Seal Sitters will be at the Alki Art Fair. First Responder and talented artist Lynn will lead craft activities for kids at our booth. We hope to see you there!

"Share the Shore" this holiday weekend

Independence Day weekend is a time when people head to the beach to enjoy some fun and, hopefully, sun. Please remember that this is a sensitive time of year for harbor seals. July is smack-dab in the middle of pupping season on the Outer Coast and pups are now being born in the inland waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound. Whenever possible, please stay 100 yards away from harbor seals (NOAA recommendation), including haulouts, many of which are now rookeries full of pregnant females and newborn pups. Disturbance often has drastic consequences. Newborn pups are not ready for “independence” until they have been weaned at least 4-6 weeks old.

July 4th weekend is no holiday for wildlife. Fireworks, loud music, people and off leash dogs can cause newborn seal pups (and young of other species) to be abandoned. Please enjoy nature responsibly and stay back from any seals resting on the beach.

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Boaters, kayakers and paddle boarders should remember to stay well away from platforms, docks, buoys and harbor seal haulouts with resting animals. Newborn pup Sparkle was abandoned by her mom due to boater harassment last season (photo left). The emaciated pup later died in rehab.

Pupping season in South Puget Sound is from late June-September (view timeline map here). All marine mammals are protected by federal law (the MMPA) from harassment. Please, “Share the Shore” with wildlife! Read related post about disturbance here.

It is not unusual to see a harbor seal pup alone on the beach. It doesn’t mean the pup is abandoned. Sometimes, a young pup is not strong enough to go foraging with mom for hours. In most cases, the mother seal will return later. Stay back, keep dogs leashed and notify your local stranding network if you have concerns.

No new information has been released about the recent seal killing near Grayland Beach on the Washington Coast. A reward has been offered in the case, the second brutal killing of a harbor seal in a month.

Pup responding well in rehab

(SEE LATEST PUPDATE END OF STORY)
Junebug, the dehydrated and thin newborn harbor seal pup taken to rehab on Tuesday afternoon, is doing well at PAWS Wildlife Center. Emily Meredith, Wildlife Rehabilitation Manager, reported yesterday morning that Junebug was “nice and bitey” after his first night of care - this feistiness is a good sign. On intake, the pup was given fluids for hydration and antibiotics for a swollen puncture wound on one of his front flippers. His chin was also scuffed up from sharp barnacle-covered rocks.

We just received word this afternoon that Junebug is responding well to his treatment and his wounds are healing. However, he still has a long road ahead of him. He needs to gain weight and pack on a thick layer of blubber to provide energy and warmth in the wild. He also needs to learn to eat solid food and how to hunt live prey. Learning to catch fish in a small rehab pool is vastly different than foraging for fish in the wide expanse of Puget Sound.

If Junebug manages to survive the lengthy rehab stay (his health is still tenuous), he will be released near a harbor seal haul-out, where hundreds of seals of all ages gather to rest and forage. There is no guarantee about his success post-release since his mom was not around to teach him all about how to be a harbor seal. It is the hope that Junebug will assimilate into a seal colony where there is safety in numbers and he can learn foraging and social skills from other seals.

PUPDATE (July 7, 2014)
We’re elated to report that Junebug continues to fare well in rehab. He has gained a bit of weight and is spending his days lounging on his pool pad, “swimming at his leisure”.

Seal pup taken to rehab after rescue from rocks

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A young girl named Ivy noticed a seal pup on the rocks below the Duwamish Head pier around 10:30 this morning. Her dad called the Seal Sitters hotline and first responder Lynn arrived minutes later. A woman with two children who also called in a report helped keep people back as Lynn swiftly stretched yellow tape between “Do Not Enter” signs and cones.

With the area finally secured, volunteers had a chance to observe the pup’s behavior and body condition. He was identified as Junebug by comparing facial markings of photos taken yesterday afternoon when the pup had rested along the Alki seawall. He was forced into the Sound by the surging tide around 6pm.

It appears that the pup swam to this location last evening, but was not visible to volunteers searching the beach. This morning, it became obvious that the pup was wedged in the jagged rocks - above the tideline, but not for long as the tide would be coming back in at a much higher level. Junebug tried, but could not free himself as much as he struggled. We knew we needed to pluck the pup from the rocks - to save him from exposure in the expected 90 degree heat and potential drowning at high tide.

Junebug’s body weight also looked noticeably thinner than that of a nursing pup with attending mom. After consultation with NOAA’s stranding expert and WDFW’s marine mammal biologist, it was determined that the dehydrated pup was likely abandoned at this very urban location. He was taken to PAWS Wildlife Center for assessment and admitted into rehab. Junebug is a full-term male pup who is between 5-8 days old and it is estimated that he had not been fed for at least 3 days.

Rehabilitation of harbor seal pups is a very lengthy and costly endeavor. Since Junebug is so young, he could be at PAWS for months. If you’d like to help PAWS defray costs for giving this pup and others a second chance to survive in the wild, please make a donation here.

Huge thanks to our colleagues at NOAA, WDFW and PAWS. We will keep you posted with updates on Junebug’s progress.

PUPDATE (7/3/14)
Junebug is faring pretty well so far in rehab. Please see July 3rd post for details.
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