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Thin seal comes ashore to rest

Late yesterday afternoon, Seal Sitters dedicated hotline (206-905-7325) received a report of a seal on the beach below Alki Avenue’s sea wall. First responders David and Eilene were on site within minutes and established a tape perimeter to keep folks from standing above the seal, causing undue stress.

Volunteers were quickly lined up in shifts to talk to passersby and ensure the seal’s safety. Terribly thin with some nasal discharge, the animal is of undetermined age, but doesn’t appear to be a weaner (1-12 months old) from last season. The seal is most likely a sub-adult (2-3 years old), based on an estimate of length. Without being able to truly measure the animal, it is difficult to assess age class.

Dubbed Blondie for his light-colored coat, the seal rested until shortly after 6pm before crossing the sand back into Puget Sound. Volunteers waited at the location before removing tape, cones and barricades in case he (sex unknown) decided to return. First responders checked nearby beaches before heading home.

Later in the evening, the hotline received another report and Blondie was located on the small beach at Duwamish Head. First responders closed access to the beach steps and established a buffer zone on the grass above him so he could rest undisturbed. Volunteers left shortly after 10pm since there was very little pedestrian activity, but returned at 11pm and Blondie was no longer on the beach.

First responder Robin checked the beach at 5:45am and it was empty. She scanned beaches from Cove 1 to Constellation Park and there was no sign of Blondie, but a small seal was sleeping about 50 yards offshore at Constellation.

Blondie is obviously having some health struggles and we anticipate he will return to shore today. Please keep an eye out for him and call our hotline @ 206-905-7325 (SEAL) immediately if you see a seal on the beach. Blondie desperately needs to rest in order survive and gain the strength to battle whatever ails him.

PUPDATE (9:45 am, May 25) There has been no sign of Blondie since late Friday night.

Buy a beer and help marine mammals

We want to thank Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery for contacting us and offering to help raise funds for Seal Sitters!

On Tuesday evening, May 27th, from 5-8pm pints of their sinfully good Devil’s Thumb Scottish Ale will sell for only $2 each. The entire $2 will be donated to Seal Sitters to help us continue our work to protect marine mammals and educate the public. Please spread the word to your friends and colleagues and encourage them to enjoy happy hour at Rock Bottom on Tuesday! In addition to fine beer, the food is excellent.

Rock Bottom is located in downtown Seattle at 1333 Fifth Avenue. Click here for brewery info and menu.

Flipper hugs to the generous staff at Rock Bottom!

Sunday an eventful day for Seal Sitters volunteers

Yesterday, Seal Sitters participated in two events. A portion of Alki Avenue was closed for Alki Summer Streets for a 5K walk and run along the beach, followed by festivities including a parade, music and games for kids.

Our volunteers set up a canopy, festooned with seal banners and a table brimming with educational outreach materials. Throughout the day (and with mostly cooperative weather until the rain set in about 3:30), approximately 240 people stopped by the booth to say hi. Those not familiar with Seal Sitters MMSN learned about our all-volunteer group and the work we do protecting marine mammals.

Seal Sitters’ talented artist Lynn created chalk drawings of a gray whale, orca, and mother seal and pup in front of the booth. Her grandaughter Eleanor attracted lots of kids to participate in her “spinner” marine mammal game. Stickers and coloring sheets were distributed to kids.

Meanwhile, across town at Seattle’s Center’s McCaw Hall, Seal Sitters volunteers manned a table and did outreach for several hours at the Orca Tour lecture, sponsored by The Whale Trail.

At both events, newly trained volunteers got a chance to work alongside some of our most dedicated, long-time vols. It was a great opportunity to get to know one another, while educating the public about seal behavior and the unique challenges we face protecting “urban” seals.

Thanks to all of our volunteers who made yesterday a resounding success on two fronts! And special flipper hugs to volunteers and event gurus David and Eilene for making it possible.

Orca Tour lecture featuring Erich Hoyt coming up

The Whale Trail is sponsoring a lecture by legendary orca researcher Erich Hoyt this Sunday, May 18th. The event will be held at McCaw Hall’s Nesholm Family Lecture Hall from 2-3:30pm. For more information and to purchase tickets, please click here ($10 adults, $5 kids).

This lecture is one of many that Erich and Whale Trail is holding in the month of May along the Pacific Coast from British Columbia to California.

Seal Sitters volunteers will have an outreach table at the event. Make sure to get your tickets early for this fascinating talk!

Happy Mother's Day to all species

Seal Sitters sends out warm flipper hugs to those most special souls - mothers! Happy Mother’s Day to our human moms - thanks for all your nurturing, guidance and support.

This day is a reminder, too, that spring is the time for birthing of many wildlife species. Seals and sea lions are now being born along the Pacific coastline. Share the Shore - stay back and do not disturb!

Harbor seal moms form affectionate bonds with their pups. Immediately after birth (see birth photos here), a mom must memorize the scent and call of her newborn so she can locate the pup if they are separated. Pups weigh between 18-30 lbs when born. Mom will nurse her pup for 4-6 weeks and then the pup is on his own. During that short time, she must teach her pup all the skills to survive against daunting odds - only 50% of pups survive the first year.

Pups can swim within minutes of birth (hours-old pup shown swimming with mom in photos). A 2-day-old pup can stay underwater for 2 minutes. Like small human children, they will rest on mom’s back when tired and hitch a ride. Most times, the pup accompanies mom on foraging trips to learn how to hunt. He will learn that patience pays off when foraging. SeaDoc Society studied the differing foraging patterns of wild weaned seal pups versus rehabilitated pups who had no mom to teach them life lessons. The scientists found that rehab pups travelled much further in search of food, wasting essential calories.

Sometimes, a mom will leave her pup, who may not be strong enough to forage for hours, alone to rest on shore. She returns later to nourish her hungry pup. Always stay back from a resting pup. Otherwise, the mom may abandon her young due to human interference.

To view some great videos of harbor seal mom and pup interactions at a protected South Puget Sound rookery, click here.

And finally, a “shout-out” to our Seal Sitters volunteers who are moms. They teach their children that respect for wildlife and concern for the health of our waterways is an empowering lesson to be learned and shared with others. We cannot thank you enough.

Cascadia Research helps free entangled humpback whale

On Tuesday near Grays Harbor on the outer coast of Washington, Cascadia Research, a member of the NOAA West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network, helped free a humpback whale who was entangled in a crab pot. Read the story in The Olympian here.

For details and photos, read Cascadia’s report here. Kudos to Cascadia for performing this extremely dangerous work and quite likely saving the life of this young whale!

Leopard and Silkie nominated for Beverly Cleary Award

The children’s book Leopard and Silkie (One Boy’s Quest to Save the Seal Pups), co-authored by Seal Sitters’ founders Brenda Peterson (a National Geographic author) and Robin Lindsey (photographer), has recently been named as one of five finalists for the Oregon Library Association’s prestigious Beverly Cleary Award. Unlike most literary competitions, the winning book will be chosen by children, who must read at least two of the five nominated books. Voting will not take place until March and April of 2015. The book was also named by the National Science Teachers Association to the “2013 Outstanding Science Trade Books K-12” list.

Leopard and Silkie is based on the true story of two seal pups who befriended each other on the Elliott Bay shores of West Seattle. Woven into the storyline is young Seal Sitters volunteer Miles who helps protect them.

Seal Pup Rescue, is the early reader version of the book. Scholastic Books purchased 26,540 copies for their book fairs across the country. We are thrilled that so many children are learning about seal pups and the importance of protecting wildlife!

Visit the Leopard and Silkie website to learn more about the backstory of the book, our young volunteers and how kids can help wildlife.

First seal pups of season born on Washington and Oregon coasts

Harbor seal pupping season is officially underway along the outer coast of the Pacific Northwest. The first reported birth of a pup in Washington State was on the Long Beach Peninsula on April 19th. The photo at right of an Oregon harbor seal haulout with hundreds of resting seals shows one newborn pup (circled in red).

Haulouts, where seals gather in numbers throughout the year to rest and forage, become rookeries during seal pupping season (click here to view a map showing pupping season by region). Pregnant females seek safety in numbers to give birth and nurse their young. Yearlings, juveniles and adult males also gather at the rookeries during this time.

Before long, there will be lots of tiny pups calling out “maa-aa”, each with a unique voice so mom can find and nurse her hungry pup in the crowded, noisy colony. After the newborn pups have been weaned at 4-6 weeks old, adults mate. All of the seals (except the pups) then go through the molting process (shedding and growing a new fur coat), remaining onshore for more extended periods of time over the following weeks.

Sometimes, a pup will be seen away from a rookery - left alone onshore while mom forages. And not all pups are born in the relative safety of a busy haul out. If you come across a pup alone on the beach, stay back at all times (100 yards when possible) and observe quietly. Otherwise, due to human (or canine - always keep dogs leashed) interference, the mom may abandon her pup. If you have concerns that a seal pup may indeed be abandoned, please call the local stranding network for that area (click here for info). As the season progresses, weaned pups are quite often seen resting alone on shore. This is normal behavior as all seals need to rest and warm up for many hours a day. It is estimated that between 3,000 and 5,000 pups are born each year in Washington’s inland waters. However, only 50% will survive the first year.

Respect harbor seal haulouts - stay back! Disturbance has drastic consequences and can cause abandonment and starvation for newborn pups. Whether hiking or boating, always stay a respectable distance away - 100 yards if at all possible. It is truly a matter of life and death for vulnerable seal pups. Remember, harbor seals are protected by federal law, the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

For a real-time look at a harbor seal haulout in South Puget Sound, check out WDFW’s very cool and educational seal cam here. Pupping season will not begin at this or other area haulouts until late June, but there is always some fascinating seal activity to view live.
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