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Cold volunteers enjoy seal pup siesta

Following several stormy and frigid days, Seal Sitters was not surprised to get a call early yesterday morning about a pup hauled out on the sand at Alki. It is not uncommon for seals to ride out storms in the sea rather than be whipped by wind and waves on shore. Exhausted, pups often appear on the beach following rough weather in need of sleep and to warm up in the sun. Our responders quickly taped off a large perimeter in anticipation of alot of pedestrian traffic out enjoying a beautiful, but bitterly cold, Sunday in West Seattle.

The seemingly healthy pup soon attracted a crowd and was nicknamed Sylvie by 5 year old Kayla. Many people were surprised that seal pups were still in the area, but we explained that as long as there was a food source of small bait fish, pups will continue to forage and rest here throughout the winter. An incoming tide whirled around Sylvie, convincing her to leave the beach and swim south along the seawall, seeking another haulout spot. Our volunteer spotted her flop-hopping up the cement steps along the Alki promenade across from Cactus restaurant. Surprised walkers gave her plenty of room to feel safe coming back ashore and she quickly settled in and fell asleep in the sun. It is quite a strange sight to see a seal pup sleeping on the
cement steps, but not a terribly unusual occurrence. Over the past few years, we have had a number of pups who come in at high tide onto the steps. Seals are cumbersome on land, so it is difficult for them to escape quickly back down the stairs as the tide recedes. This is all the more reason that dogs need to be leashed near the beach at all times. You may be anticipating the possibility of encountering a pup on the beach, but you sure don’t expect to see one on the sidewalk. Among our pups who have chosen this unique haulout was last year’s pup Bonair, who really went to the extreme!

Volunteers put in a very long day and well into the night, making sure that this spotted little pup could rest as quietly as possible in such an urban and potentially dangerous setting. Yesterday we talked to approximately 273 quiet and respectful bystanders, including many inquisitive children, about seal biology, the work of the stranding network and volunteer opportunities. Luckily, Sylvie was not terribly skittish and the tired pup rested well over 15 hours on the beach, returning to Puget Sound during the night. Thanks to our frozen volunteers for putting in so many hours on a terribly chilly day!

Seal pups seek rest from stormy waters

Three seal pups visited our shores today - just when we thought things might be slowing down a bit. Early this morning we received a call from some alert City-side condo residents that a pup was on the beach near the water taxi. Unfortunately, the pup was scared back into the water before volunteers could respond. Shortly thereafter, our hotline received another call that a pup was on the steps leading to the beach on the Alki side. Our volunteer was surprised to find the pup at the top of the steps level with the sidewalk. We quickly established a perimeter with yellow Protected Marine Mammal tape and informational signs.

The pup was alert with good body weight. Examination of telephoto images revealed some green discharge around the eyes; however, all in all, the pup looked to be in good health. The pup was 15 steps above the water level. Apparently he came in at high tide and probably worked his way up a few steps to the top so he could rest undisturbed by surging waves. 
The pup, nicknamed Bonair, finally returned to the Sound at 8:03 tonight, much to the relief of cold and wet volunteers. To our dismay, when he finally decided to venture back to the water, he considered a high-dive from the top step and would have suffered severe injuries on the exposed rocks below. Thankfully, he opted for the safer route down the steps, but decided about midway to take the plunge. Our volunteer saw a big splash and was relieved to see that he landed in a shallow pool at the base of the stairs, missing the rocks, and disappeared into the dark waters. Bonair had at least a 14 hour rest today after most likely riding out the rough waters throughout the night. Thanks to the volunteers who protected him on this blustery and cold day!

Queen Latifah also made an appearance today, looking nice and plump and alert and back on her favorite rock. She has developed quite the fan club. All of our recent pups have picked highly visible spots to haul out. They are providing an unparalleled opportunity for people to observe and discover the joy of seal pups. To learn more about how tides affect haulout patterns, click here.

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