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Ailing adult seal rests on private beach

A concerned waterfront homeowner contacted Seal Sitters yesterday afternoon. A large seal was resting on the private stretch of beach between the Alki Lighthouse and Alki Promenade. First Responder David was allowed access through the reporting party’s property and found a dark-coated adult seal close to the water’s edge. He was told the seal had been “rolling” in the surf before coming ashore.

David gave Robin a call, who went down to observe as well since it is abnormal to have an adult seal on the beach in West Seatte. Adults are highly wary of people and a healthy seal would flee at the sight of nearby humans. Through binoculars and photos from a telephoto lens, we could see some bloodied wounds on the rear end. Knowing that the transient orcas had been along Alki and in Elliott Bay the day before, we worried the seal might have suffered injuries in an orca encounter. Often, orcas ram seals, sea lions and porpoises, causing serious injuries not always visible to the naked eye. We sought the opinion of SR3, part of the NOAA-approved marine mammal consulting veterinary program.

SR3’s veterinary nurse (and new SSMMSN volunteer) Casey McLean arrived with their transport ambulance (just in case) and observed the seal’s wounds though binocs at a closer distance. The adult, nicknamed Mocha for his rich brown coat, reluctantly returned to Puget Sound shortly afterwards as the incoming tide lapped over him.

Detailed photos of Mocha’s body condition and wounds were sent to SR3’s veterinarian, Dr. Lesanna Lahner, and WDFW’s marine mammal biologist Dyanna Lambourn. Dyanna, who has spent upwards of 30 years studying harbor seals in the wild, felt the flipper wounds were consistent with male seals fighting during mating season.

Harbor seals mate in area rookeries after females give birth and nurse their young. Adult males establish underwater territories to mate and will defend that territory vigorously to keep other males away.

Seal Sitters MMSN will continue to monitor Mocha if he returns ashore to get some much-needed rest. We are thankful he chose private property yesterday with very little foot traffic or off leash dogs.
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