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Busy week continues for volunteers as seal pups seek refuge

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For the third day in a row, Seal Sitters MMSN volunteers have responded to and protected seal pups seeking sanctuary along West Seattle’s Elliott Bay shoreline. Refuge is increasingly difficult for pups due to people and their recreation activities, including kayaking and diving, in the small coves.

Seals and sea lions of all ages spend about 50% of their day out of the water. The male sea lions that migrate to Elliott Bay each fall haul out on the mid-channel buoys. Their lively and loud barking can be heard as they compete for space on the small structures. Tiny harbor seal pups, on the other hand, need easy-access shoreline to rest and warm up.

About 5:20 last evening, as human activity tapered off, seal pup Snow Cone (above) came ashore at one of those small coves. As darkness set in, the cove was taped off and signs informing the public that “Harbor Seals Need to Rest” and “Don’t Touch Seal Pups - It’s the Law” were strategically placed along the perimeter.

Please, always keep your dog leashed near the beach. You never know when a vulnerable seal pup will be onshore, both day and night. Because of their unique mottled fur coats, seals are very difficult to notice on the beach and a dog’s keen sense of smell will discover a pup’s presence long before an owner does. That can often be too late to prevent injury or harm.

If you come across a seal resting on the beach, please notify Seal Sitters’ hotline at 206-905-SEAL(7325) immediately and, if at all possible, remain onsite and keep people away until responders can arrive. Undisrupted, stress-free rest is critical to harbor seal pups’ survival. Only half survive their first year.

Seal pup spends restful day with city skyline view

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Gazing out her condo window with its panoramic view of the Seattle skyline, West Seattle resident Connie was startled to see a small seal crawl ashore on the pocket beach below her. Grabbing her coat and camera, she dashed across Harbor Avenue to make sure no one scared the pup back into Elliott Bay before Seal Sitters could arrive. She immediately called our hotline @ 206-905-SEAL(7325).

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Upon arrival, SSMMSN first responders taped of access to the small cove. The bright white pup stretched and yawned and settled in for a few zzzz’s. Close to the sea wall and sidewalk, passersby had a perfect view of the gorgeous pup on what was finally a rain-free afternoon, following a torrential morning downpour.

Nicknamed Snow Cone, the seemingly healthy pup rested as Seal Sitters educated the public, including the periodic stream of Water Taxi commuters, and kept watch in shifts throughout the day and evening at this very scenic location. Divers were allowed through the far opposite end of the cove to access a popular dive site.

Around 8pm, with the skyline lights shimmering across the bay, Snow Cone returned to the dark waters for a late dinner and volunteers dispersed for their own late dinners. Thanks to the volunteers, some of whom are shown above, for keeping the pup safe.

Seal pup rescued and transported for stabilization

Yesterday morning, Seal Sitters First Responders Robin and Dana rushed to a small public access beach next to the Fauntleroy ferry booths. Hotline operator Emily had received a report of a harbor seal pup that appeared sick or injured.

Upon arrival, the concerned couple who had called the hotline pointed out the pup, near the tideline just north of the dock. Tape was stretched across the sand to establish a restricted zone around the vulnerable seal who was having seizures. A call was urgently placed to PAWS Wildlife Center, the NOAA-approved treatment facility for our region.

The surrounding area within feet of the pup had numerous large dog prints. Imagine the stress - and panic - of this sick pup, a prey animal, immobile and unable to escape a perceived threat.

The pup was gently placed into a transport kennel and driven to the Lynnwood clinic for stabilization and treatment. The initial veterinary exam revealed that the he had a number of health issues, not the least of which was possible pneumonia and lung worm infection. Fall and winter months are extremely challenging for weaned pups, who are often thin and susceptible to parasites and viruses.

The young male survived the night, but still has a difficult road ahead. At last report, the pup was stabilized, but “very sick.”

Identification photos taken on the beach were compared with those of seal pups in this year’s database. He was positively identified as Pepper, who had been observed sleeping on Alki Beach late Friday night in a downpour. Pepper was gone at first light the following morning. We will provide updates on the pup as we receive more information.

Wind storm aftermath brings wave of seal pups

On Friday afternoon, a serious wind storm whipped and churned Puget Sound waters into a frenzy. Waves crashed over the sea walls along Beach Drive, leaving debris in its wake. Thankfully, harbor seals can actually sleep in the water when need be and will often ride out storms by bottom resting, rising to the surface every 25 minutes or so for a breath of air and returning to the sea bottom. This, instead of hauling out on shore and being battered by wind, rain and surf.

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Often, following a storm of this nature, we see an increase in seal pups seeking rest on the beach, warming up out of the cold waters. Late Friday night, as the winds calmed down, a small pup slept in the dark at Alki Beach, but was gone when our first responder checked about 5:40am.

Saturday, before the much-anticipated remnants of a Pacific typhoon was expected to power thru our region mid-late afternoon, there was a brief lull in the winds. True to form, the day was busy for seal responses.

Around 11am, the hotline called to report a seal pup near the West Seattle water taxi landing. Our responder arrived within minutes to find a pup sleeping soundly in a soft rain on the pebbled beach. She quickly closed off access to the small cove with yellow tape and informational signage.

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A call was placed to Volunteer Scheduler, Arden, who checked the online calendar and began making calls to those who had entered time for the day. New volunteers Cathy (who admirably also volunteers at PAWS), 5 1/2 year old Mia and her mom Erin (shown at left) donned rain gear and enthusiastically arrived for duty at the cove.

Volunteers chatted among themselves and with a surprising number of passersby, despite increasing rain and winds as the day went on. The pup, nicknamed Sea Glass, was able to sleep peacefully except for a brief, but persistent harassment by a juvenile sea gull. The feisty pup defended his territory and the gull finally moved on.

We also received a report mid-day that a seal pup was resting near the Fauntleroy ferry dock, but our first responder who was on the scene within 15 minutes found none.

Eventually, Sea Glass flop-hopped across the glistening pebbles and into the cozy nook of a large tree trunk on the beach (photo above). Sheltered from the increasing wind gusts and rain, he slept comfortably until dark. Around 6:20 the wind and rain hit with a vengeance and volunteers sought cover. Sea Glass returned to the Sound around 8:30 and the signage and tape was removed from the cove entrance.
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