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Seal pups are tv stars - public service announcement airs

Our seal pups Queen Latifah, ET and Pebbles are now starring in Seal Sitters’ newly released PSA (public service announcement) which began airing on local tv stations this morning. KING 5 ran the PSA just before the Today Show - immense visibility for this very important message. Many, many thanks to KING 5! We are hoping that other stations in the area will begin broadcasting the :30 spot soon as well. This project was possible as a result of an in-kind grant awarded to Seal Sitters by the Neighborhood Matching Fund of Seattle Department of Neighborhoods.

Pupping season is just now beginning on the outer coast of Washington and Oregon. As you may know, last year there was a high visibility case of a couple who illegally removed a seal pup from the beach and took the pup back to their hotel. Thankfully, after the pup spent the night on the floor, they called authorities and the seal pup did survive after a long rehab at PAWS. There are many more human-involved incidents where the outcome is not such a happy one. The PSA stresses that it is normal for pups to be alone on the beach and to call the NW Stranding Network. This educational message will help keep both marine mammals and the public safe.

Huge thanks to Melinda Simon and John Larson of Gypsy Soul Productions for donating many hours to produce this professional message! Thanks also go to actress Tracey Conway (for her perfect voiceover) and sound engineer Jason Devore and Victory Studios - all who donated time and expertise to this project. Video footage by Robin Lindsey.

Seal pup recovered from Port of Seattle property

We are sad to report that the seal pup SS volunteers watched over Sunday night at Don Armeni boat ramp was found dead on the inaccessible, secured East beach at Jack Block Park early this morning. The pup (who was thin, but exhibited no overt signs of illness) had been observed over the past few days hauled out in different locations within the park. We would like to give special thanks to Port of Seattle Police officer Julia Tanga, T5 security officer Charles and terminal manager Kelly of Eagle Marine Services for their help today in allowing our first responder access to recover the body for necropsy. The necropsies performed by WDFW’s marine mammal biologist are critical in monitoring the health of our seal and sea lion population. We will keep you updated with the necropsy results, so please check back.

While it seems like lately we having our fair share of sad news, Seal Sitters would like to remind everyone that we have had some very fat, happy blubberballs this year - our celebrities Pebbles, ET and Queen Latifah - and a number of other pups who have shared our shore. And we shouldn’t forget our big success story of the season - the rehabilitation and release of Storm. Our seal pups have been unusually healthy this year as opposed to years past. As we know, pups only have a 50% chance of surviving that first year of life, so it’s critical that we give them the best chance possible to thrive. While our volunteers do have some terribly sad days, the joys of our work far outweigh the sorrows. Winter may be a challenging time, but rest assured we do have some very healthy looking seals hanging around. In fact, there were 5 seals of varying ages resting on an abandoned pier before dawn yesterday - a beautiful sight to behold in this video clip. The rising tide finally encouraged them to return to Elliott Bay. It is a sight like this that can lift the spirits of a very saddened volunteer and remind us of the very important work we do.

Happy Thanksgiving to all our volunteers and supporters

Seal Sitters wants to extend holiday wishes to all of our dedicated volunteers and those of you in the public who have been so supportive of our work. We have much to be thankful for this season: all of our pups who continue to entertain and amaze us and so many genuinely caring people who want to understand and protect them. We are so grateful that little ET traveled all the way from his tiny island rookery near Steilacoom to heal his wounds on our West Seattle shores - and so thankful that we were given the opportunity to help him do so. We are elated that PAWS was able to successfully rehabilitate Storm who was just recently released back to the wild. We are so lucky to live on the Salish Sea.

To all of you, Happy Thanksgiving and very safe travels on those still-icy roads.

ET and Queen Latifah's TV and media splash attracts volunteers

The high profile presence of seal pups ET and Queen Latifah for such an extended stretch on our shores, has attracted much attention and, therefore, many new people interested in volunteering for Seal Sitters. KOMO 4 News’ lead story last night was about our November seal pup phenomenon and the fact that our volunteers are stretched a bit thin and exhausted - however, truly a labor of love for all of us. Minutes after the Lindsay Cohen segment aired, we began receiving emails wanting to know when the next training was scheduled. Typically, our first training of the year is in June and we offer a second in September since pupping season is from late July - September. While we always have weaned pups visit our shores throughout the fall and winter, never before have they decided to stick around for lengthy stays requiring volunteers for many days on end. The really exciting aspect of this is that they are unusually healthy for this time of year. So, based on all the new volunteer interest and the rather atypical year we are having, we will be scheduling a training in early December. Please check the website and blog where we will post the date once determined.

Coincidentally, The West Seattle Herald’s MaryBeth Dagg wrote a nice feature yesterday as well, so check it out here.

Tracy Record and the West Seattle Blog provide excellent on-going coverage of our pups on the beaches, so please check their posts frequently, too.

Thanks to all of the above media for helping us get the word out to give our pups some space!

Quiet day for Seal Sitters

Today was a much-needed quiet day for our volunteers. Still no confirmed sightings of ET; however, a pup was sleeping in the water early this morning near his last haul out spot. Yes, seals can sleep in the water and underwater, holding their breath for about 25 minutes. Queen Latifah wasn’t sleeping, though - she was having breakfast in her usual fishing hole and then spent a fair amount of time trying to haul out on the slippery rocks. She was tired and wanted to rest, but the tide was still a bit high for her to get onto her favorite rock. She was persistent and finally succeeded as you can see in this video clip. All seals (adults and pups) spend about 50% of their time resting and warming up on shore.

No sightings of ET today, but Latifah's streak still going strong

Our volunteers did not see ET anywhere on the beaches today. However, we did see what is most likely his new haulout marks - from virtually the same spot where he rested yesterday. These marks were fresh early this morning, so it looks like maybe he came back onshore sometime during the night or very early morning. We are not particularly worried that he was not around today. His wounds were healing nicely and he probably is just expanding his horizons for foraging. If we’re lucky, we’ll get another glimpse of him again. It’s always a strange feeling when you’ve looked after a pup for so many days and then suddenly he is gone - perhaps never to return.

Queen Latifah, on the other hand, was hauled out on the rocks for the 33rd confirmed day in a row. Pretty soon the City will start charging her waterfront property tax. She is the most robust weaned pup we have ever observed in West Seattle - quite an exhilarating sight for Seal Sitters.

ET's on the move - again

ET opted for a new piece of real estate today, hauling out on the private stretch of beach at the end of Alki. Thankfully, a savvy waterfront resident gave us a call and we were able to establish a tape perimeter on this beach where off leash dogs are all too common. The fact that it was a drizzly and cold day helped out as well to keep foot traffic to a minimum. ET had a much quieter rest at this tranquil location - quite the contrast to all the vehicle (and people) noise he was exposed to on the City side. His flipper wounds look well on their way to healing. He returned to the waters of Puget Sound about 4:10 this afternoon. So, it will be interesting to see where he decides to haul out tomorrow morning. If you spot little ET with his blue tag (or any of his pals), give us a call.

Queen Latifah was hauled out again on the rocks.

ET entertains West Seattle again today

Our volunteer found ET hauled out again just before dawn this morning. However, shortly thereafter, he moved back to the cove where he spent yesterday - within a mere 5 feet of a busy sidewalk and approximately 25 feet from noisy Harbor Avenue SW. Here’s a video of ET in the pink light of dawn, only minutes after he hauled out at cove #2. You can see the steam rise off his back in the brisk morning air. Once our volunteer established a perimeter, he slept peacefully onshore despite loud traffic zipping by and the bustle of bicyclists and commuters. He finally returned to Elliott Bay about 6:30pm.

Thanks to all the volunteers who are devoting so many hours to keep him safe in the cold. And many thanks to the divers who were so considerate of ET’s need to rest, using another cove for their dive today.

ET ties Pebbles at 15 straight days, but Queen Latifah still reigns

Our little trickster ET continues to mix it up for our volunteers - which is most likely a good sign regarding his health. Instead of hauling out at dawn at the cove where he has resided the past two days, he surprised us by picking another one. Our volunteer was checking every beach and cove on the City side very early this morning, but ET hauled out right after she left to search the next one. Thankfully, one of our alert early morning dog walkers spotted him on the beach and let us know. He looked nice and plump and settled in for a long nap in the pouring rain, perhaps dreaming of the chase and of catching tiny fish (yes, scientists have proven that seals do dream). ET returned to Elliott Bay about 5:15 this afternoon with an even bigger fan club as commuters stopped to ask questions of volunteers. This was his 15th straight day on shore in West Seattle, including the days he hauled out on the rocks with Queen Latifah.

Queen Latifah (shown above lounging in the rain) extends her even longer uninterrupted streak on the rocks. Thankfully, she is healthy and alert and continues to choose a spot that only sometimes requires volunteers - mostly on sunny days or weekends when she attracts alot of attention and can’t get the rest she needs.

Record setting November for seal pups

November of this year has been the busiest on record for Seal Sitters. Queen Latifah has long surpassed Pebbles’ 15 day haulout streak with no end in sight as she continues to lounge on her rocky throne. And ET (shown tucked away in the driftwood) looks to be challenging that record as well - today was his 14th day in a row resting on our shores. The good news for ET (and Seal Sitters) is that he has again chosen this safe cove. Now, just as when Pebbles called that beach home, commuters check on ET on their morning and evening commute and walkers and joggers stop by to say hello. Once ET gets settled in, he snoozes for many, many hours virtually unaware of the curious and quiet crowd. This location is a win for all - ET can rest safely and the public gets a unique glimpse into the life of a harbor seal pup - quite an amazing thing to observe in the middle of a major metropolitan city. And this safer location is so much less stressful on our volunteers. ET hauled out very early this morning and returned to Elliott Bay in the evening. Queen Latifah looked alert and beautiful as always today.

ET keeps us on our toes

ET hauled out at an unexpected, but welcome, location today - the cove that came to be known as Pebbles’ beach. It is a much safer spot for him to rest without boats, trucks, buses and trailers passing him by. He picked a spot that was highly visible to the public so it was a perfect opportunity for educating people about the joys and biology of seal pups. We did notice a wound under his right flipper and hope it is nothing significant. He returned to the water approximately 4 pm this afternoon, just minutes after Queen Latifah left her rocks not too far north of him. Maybe they had a dinner date for some three spined stickleback.

West Seattle seal pup festival - four pups on the beach

Today was a crazy day for Seal Sitters trying to protect four seal pups in different locations in West Seattle. Two pups seem to be newcomers on our beaches, Pudge and Ancora. Pudge is a dark brown seal with white markings whom we thought might be one of two similar seals we have protected this season. But indeed, Pudge is new to our beach and rested on the rocks at high tide on the Alki side before moving farther down the beach. Ancora hauled out at Luna Point and gave us a bit of concern in the early morning with some coughing episodes. However, she rested comfortably for many hours on the warm sand (shown in the photo thermoregulating). And ET extends his boatramp haul out streak to 7 consecutive days. His patterns are changing a bit, however, which is a good thing and possibly an indication that his flipper wounds are less troublesome for him. He is coming and going from the ramp with shorter resting times. Queen Latifah entertained onlookers at her usual spot on the rocks. Seal Sitters volunteers were kept busy from early morning til early evening - another long day.

Another long day for ET and volunteers

ET spent over 13 hours yesterday under the collective watchful eye of Seal Sitters volunteers - the 5th day in a row. He was spotted early morning on the beach and volunteers hoped that was where he would spend the day. However, as the tide came in, ET decided to move back to his comfy new home at the boatramp. Little does he know that this location is infinitely more dangerous for him in the long run. It is not wise for a little pup to think that a highly trafficked site such as a public boat launch is a safe place for a haulout. Not every area has volunteers who work long shifts to keep pups safe from harm. In fact, the Everett marina has had a seal pup for 5 days now that was being harassed by people, including someone who wanted to feed the pup canned pet food. Not only is it against the law to touch and move a seal pup, it is illegal to feed them.

ET is becoming more and more tolerant of people’s disruptions around him and that is not a good thing for a young pup who needs to be innately wary for his survival. Not every person has such well-meaing, but misguided, intentions to help - such as the man who (from the relative anonymity of his pickup) suggested to our volunteer that we shoot ET. Yesterday as well, an off leash dog went under the tape barrier, but one of our volunteers was able to intervene.

ET’s wounds looked less infected, so extended and uninterrupted rest seems to be helping his healing process. Our new young volunteer, Emma, enjoyed watching over him. He finally returned to Elliott Bay at around 10:10pm.

Busy day for Seal Sitters - don't touch seal pups!

Today was a busy day for seal pups on the beach with two in high visibility and vulnerable locations. ET hauled out yet again at the boatramp early this morning and late into the evening. His body weight still looks good for a “weaner.” The sun brought out alot of curious people who wondered about his blue tag and why he had picked such a busy spot. Tired volunteers worked shifts for the fourth day in a row to protect him.

A second pup hauled out at Lincoln Park this afternoon. When our (exhausted and cranky) first responder arrived, there were a number of concerned and well-meaning citizens gathered near the pup. Please remember that the best way you can help seal pups is to GIVE THEM SPACE. Standing within a few feet of a pup causes undue stress when they are trying to find a safe spot to rest - seals and sea lions use the shoreline to rest and warm up. One of the bystanders said a man picked the pup up off the beach and put him back into the water, but the pup returned to shore. Don’t touch seal pups! It is against the law to touch or move a seal that is on the beach. Keep people and dogs as far away as possible and call Seal Sitters @ 206-905-SEAL (7325). Enter our phone number into your cell phone so you have quick access to help.

The Lincoln Park pup was determined to rest on shore as long as possible. When the incoming tide began to sweep across him, he crawled over a very large log and settled into a pile of leaves where he rested until darkness fell. This pup, nicknamed Leafy, had some blood around his eye, but examination of photos reveal that it is most likely a minor wound on the lid of the eye. If you are walking Lincoln Park early in the morning, please look for Leafy and call us if you spot him. We will be looking for him at first light.

UPDATE: ET returned to the water a few minutes before 10pm tonight after being onshore for 13 hours, his longest haulout to date at the boatramp.

ET has long snooze at the boatramp

ET hauled out about 10 am on this sunny morning for another extended stay on the boatramp. He looked plump and alert when he came ashore and settled in for a quick snooze. Not too much later, however, he decided to move to the other ramp and settled in for the long haul. Seal Sitters watched over him until he returned to the water around 9pm - another long day for volunteers, but ET is well-rested!

Latifah hauled out on the rocks yet again.

ET gives Seal Sitters a scare on Halloween

Seal Sitters volunteers did not spot ET on Saturday, but much to our dismay, he hauled out at the boat ramp early yesterday afternoon. He was looking alert and plump so we were not overly concerned. As the day wore on, however, we began to fear that perhaps there was some issue with his health that we weren’t aware of. Our volunteers mobilized and educated the public throughout the day and evening about the reasons for his blue tag and his history. ET finally returned to Elliott Bay at 9:39pm last night as the tide began to return - much to the relief of our cold and wet volunteers. We hope that he does not choose the very stressful location of the boat ramp for his new haul out site. We are surmising that ET picked this spot because he was not subjected to the intense wave action on the rocks.

Queen Latifah hauled out again yesterday on the rocks.

Weaned pups finding good food source in Elliott Bay

ET and Queen Latifah, the two weaned pups who have been entertaining Seal Sitters of late, seem to have successfully learned to forage on their own. Unlike many pups who struggle to survive when they no longer have mom’s rich milk to sustain them, these pups appear to be thriving.

What do weaned pups eat? According to WDFW’s marine mammal research biologist, seal pups will eat just about anything they can get their little flippers on. They prefer the tiny fish like shiner perch, 3 spined sticklebacks, starry flounder, gunnel (a favorite of the cormorants as well), midshipmen (the fish, not the sailors), shrimp and squid.

Latifah is particularly successful at hunting as you can see from her curvy physique! Most weaned pups are terribly thin as they make the difficult transition to life on their own. We are thrilled that both of our City-side pups are doing so well.

Thin seal pup enjoys the morning sun on Alki

A too-thin pup hauled out early yesterday morning just as our volunteer Jennifer happened to be walking the beach. This pup with a rather serious expression, nicknamed Mad Mimi, was very alert, but was able to get a couple of hours rest since the beach was relatively deserted. From the steps near the volleyball courts, the occasional passersby were treated to a very good view of Mimi stretching in the sun. The pup’s markings were very similar to Pebbles, but id photos confirm that this is a new pup on our shores. Photos of the teeth indicate that this is one of our youngest weaned pups - in fact, perhaps weaned a bit too young. A weaned pup can expend their blubber layer and return to their birth weight within a couple of weeks of weaning if they are not successful at foraging on their own. Therefore, this is a critical time that determines their survival and we do not want them wasting precious calories by being scared back into the water. A flock of crows fluttered around the pup, cawing and creating a bit of a ruckus. The pup returned to the water when soaked by a large sneaker wave (see video - not the best sound due to high winds), but was not spotted on shore again. We will be on the alert for Mimi. As always, please call our hotline @ 206-905-SEAL (7325) if you see any marine mammal on the beach.

Both Queen Latifah and ET hauled out on the city-side rocks again yesterday. The “queen” is on her way to breaking Pebbles’ consecutive day haul out record! Thankfully, the pups are hauling out in areas that do not require constant vigilance by our volunteers.

Seal pup ET finds new home on our shores

The tagged pup from the island rookeries far away in South Puget Sound rested on the rocks again yesterday. Despite the wounds which still are quite infected, his body weight looks reasonably good for a weaned pup. WDFW says that in comparing our photos to the day he was tagged, the wounds do look like they are starting to heal - a long process when a pup has a depressed immune system to begin with. This pup has been named ET by our volunteers because of the similarity to the movie character and also because this pup, too, has travelled so far from home. As long as ET continues to come and go on his own and maintains a fairly healthy body weight, it is the opinion of the biologist that no rescue be attempted. Late yesterday, ET (shown here finding shelter in the wind and rain) had company on the rocks - Queen Latifah hauled out about twenty feet away from him. This seems to be a popular and very safe spot for our weaned pups. There are lots of little fish about and the cormorants are feasting on them as well.

Seal tracking study in Puget Sound

The Seattle Times’ environmental writer, Lynda Mapes, has a feature story about the latest tracking study being done on harbor seal pups in the San Juan Islands. Tracking devices are being secured on pups that have been rehabilitated to see how they survive once released back into the wild. The Sea Doc Society’s Harbor Seal Rehabilitation Study will compare the movements and survival rates of 10 rehabbed pups versus 10 wild-weaned pups. Read the Times article here.

A similar study is being conducted in South Puget Sound, where 21 wild pups have been fitted with radio transmitters. Mortality rates of pups have increased somewhat in our area and biologists hope that these devices will shed light on the causes. The movements of these pups will be tracked throughout the winter. The transmitters are glued on and are shed when the pups molt their first coat. Seals molt every year post pupping season. Yesterday, we had a pup on our shore (photo at left by SS volunteer David Hutchinson) who was tagged during captures as part of long-term harbor seal research study in the region. This pup was not fitted with a transmitter because he had infected puncture wounds on his rear flippers. The biologists, however, tagged the pup with a blue id tag (indicating sex as male) and flushed and cleaned the wounds with an iodine solution. When our volunteer noticed the tag, we phoned WDFW Marine Mammal Investigations to see if the pup was one of our South Sound rookery pups. Sure enough, the pup was tagged in South Puget Sound on October 7th and the biologist was happy to hear that the pup has survived thus far. The wounds are still infected, but the pup was resting in an inaccessible area. We will keep an eye out for this beautiful pup.

UPDATE: This pup has been named ET by our volunteers because of the similarity to the movie character and also because this pup, too, has travelled so far from home.
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