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Seal Sitters protect special pup

On Sunday we received a call about a seal pup at Lincoln Park, but when our responder arrived she had already been scared back into the Sound. Thankfully, the pup hauled out again on the beach a bit further south. A perimeter was quickly established around the pup who had a yellow tag and red streamer on her rear flippers. With a long telephoto lens, we tried to get a photo of the number on the tag, but the angle was never quite right. The skittish pup did manage to get a bit of rest, but was scared into the water by kayakers twice. The second time, she did not return to shore, but instead could be seen sleeping in the water. Seals can sleep underwater, coming up for air every 20-30 minutes. The pup was bottling, sleeping vertically with the head up out of the water. Heads up to kayakers: If you notice yellow tape on the beach, that means there is a seal trying to rest, so please give a wide berth and paddle out away from shore. More often than not, kayakers and paddle boarders spook pups.

The next day, the pup was seen at another park and volunteers talked to onlookers while the pup slept on the pebbled beach below. Our responder was able to get a clear photo of the tag number and we texted the WDFW-MMI biologist to find out the pup’s backstory. We were delighted to hear that the female pup came from one of her South Sound island rookeries, south of Tacoma. WDFW’s researchers use hoop nets to briefly capture seals after the pupping season has ended, taking blubber samples and drawing blood. These samples help monitor the health of the population. At that time, this little female, nicknamed Lady Dy, weighed 20.3 kg and was fully weaned. She was tagged in order to follow her progress. It’s exciting to protect a pup from our mentor’s rookery.

Seal pup Cassi has been using Constellation Park to rest over the past few days; so with two active pups our volunteers have been putting in extremely long hours. Our rookie volunteers from the early March training have been getting lots of varied experience the past couple of weeks. Today we got a bit of a break from beach duty, as we didn’t spot either weaned pup on shore.

Busy week for seal pups and new volunteers

This has been a crazy week for weaned seal pups on the beaches of West Seattle. Thankfully, we have a number of very enthusiastic new volunteers anxious to get out there and help them get the rest they need. On Monday morning, the hotline got a tip that there was a pup at Cove #3, just north of the water taxi pier. He was close to the tide line, enjoying a bit of sunshine which has been rare these days. Volunteers talked to the public about this alert and seemingly healthy pup, dubbed Primavera (since it was the first day of spring) by new volunteer Lynn. Unfortunately, a research boat motored into the cove to gather up a scientific sample and the pup was scared back into the water. The pup, however, did at least manage to get a few hours of rest.

On Tuesday, we received a call about a pup at Jack Block Park. Our responder found the pup on the small protected beach, where he rested until dark. The pup returned to the beach on Wednesday and, due to his close proximity to the overhead sidewalk, we established a small perimeter to keep people from standing and talking directly above him. 10-year-old Casey, a brand new volunteer doing a shift with her mom, named the pup Weasley (photo above). This was Casey’s first day on the job and she was filled with excitement. We asked Casey her thoughts on seal sitting: “I wanted to be a seal sitter because I just love animals and because I want to help them in the world. I think all animals are amazing and seals are super cool and adorable too!” Well, we think Casey is super cool and adorable, too!

Today, two pups found sanctuary on our shores. The first one popped up around noon north of Constellation Park. The pup was very difficult to spot on the rocky beach in contrasty light (photo left). On this gorgeous day, there were many people out strolling along the sea wall who came down onto the beach to watch him stretch and catch some zzzz’s in the balmy sun. Since the tide was out and there was public beach access, our volunteers kept watch over the pup until late in the afternoon when high tide forced the pup to move. The pup, dubbed Cassi (after the constellation Cassiopeia), wasn’t quite ready to return to the Sound for dinner and chose a spot only about 20 yards away on the public beach. Volunteers kept vigil until dark.

Our second pup of the day hauled out south of the Fauntleroy ferry. A mom walking the beach with her two small children noticed the pup resting in the shadows underneath a dock. He was alert with decent body weight for a wild weaned pup. Volunteers taped off a section of beach so that he could try to get some rest. This particular beach has issues with off leash dogs and our volunteers diverted two dogs in the time that we were there. The dog owners were extremely cooperative once they realized there was a seal pup on the beach. This little seal, nicknamed Shadow (photo below), was finally able to relax and settle in for a nap as the sun began to sink over the Olympics. It doesn’t get much better than protecting a vulnerable pup while ferries glide back and forth on cobalt waters - a simply stunning day.

Seal Sitters would like to extend special thanks to the waterfront homeowners who continue to call our hotline with reports of marine mammals on their property - especially those with public access at lower tides. We always try our best to keep a low profile in efforts to keep disruption to the homeowner to a minimum, while ensuring that seal pups can be safe on the beach. Being able to monitor and identify pups helps us with health assessments and provides data on the health of Puget Sound as a whole.

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