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Rescued and rehabbed pup Junebug goes home to the wild

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We just received word that seal pup Junebug was released back home to Puget Sound on August 26th after a lengthy rehabilitation at PAWS Wildlife Center. He was sporting a red flipper tag for i.d. purposes in case of future sightings, injury or illness.

The abandoned and estimated only 5-8 day old pup was rescued by Seal Sitters MMSN from West Seattle’s Duwamish Head on July 1st. He weighed only 8.6 kg upon intake at the Lynnwood urgent care facility. Junebug was a whopping 31.1 kg on release day (see photo courtesy of PAWS). The pup was released at a known harbor seal rookery near Everett with the help of the Coast Guard.

Rehab for newborn seal pups - and weaned pups - is a lengthy process, as indicated by Junebug’s two-month stay at PAWS. There is no evidence that a fattened up rehabbed pup has greater odds of survival than wild-weaned pups. Pups still face 50% mortality their first year and some would argue that a week-old rehabbed pup who has not been taught to forage in the wild faces even worse odds.

In late January of 2013, Seal Sitters’ first responder noticed a red tag on a pup resting near Salty’s on Harbor Avenue. A check in the stranding network database revealed that the pup, whom volunteers nicknamed Ruby, had been rehabbed at PAWS and released in October of 2012 at a harbor seal haulout south of Tacoma. Ruby had made the long trek to the big city and Seal Sitters volunteers watched over her almost every day for the next few months at West Seattle’s Jack Block Park until she finally travelled on.

The Marine Mammal Stranding Network would like to receive reports which include i.d. numbers of tagged seals, dead or alive. With respect to harbor seal pups, these reports are extremely helpful in determining the survival rate of rehabilitated animals.

Thanks so much to PAWS Wildlife Center and their awesome staff for giving Junebug a second chance at life!

Seal Sitters new volunteer training scheduled for August

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Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network’s final training for the 2014 seal pupping season will take place on August 9th. There will be no further trainings until late fall due to time constraints on volunteers.

Last year’s record-breaking pupping season stats in West Seattle (from late July’s first response to a newborn seal pup to the end of the year’s weaned pups) included 163 responses to marine mammals, including 66 positively identified seal pups. For a summary of 2013’s activities,
click here.

This 2014 season has begun unusually early in West Seattle with responses to one full
lanugo seal pup “Luigi”, a second premature pup, and full-term “Junebug” who is now in rehab at PAWS Wildlife Center.

TRAINING DATE:
Saturday morning, August 9, 2014
Time:
10am - 12pm (doors open at 9:30am)
*please note: Plan to arrive early to register and receive paperwork - training begins promptly at 10
Location:
Alki UCC Church 6115 SW Hinds, Seattle (map it)
***A FEW SPOTS OPEN DUE TO LAST MINUTE CANCELLATIONS. Please contact us if you’d like to attend the training.

*Note to parents: All children accompanying adults must be able to sit quietly through an almost two hour presentation (with break).

Seal Sitters MMSN holds several special trainings a year for those wanting to protect marine mammals year-round along the shoreline of West Seattle and the Duwamish River. We are a very active network and have volunteers who travel from around the area to participate. However, if you live out of the West Seattle area and would like to find a stranding network closer to where you live, click here.

Unlike most marine mammal stranding networks, we encourage children to participate in Seal Sitters - supervised at all times, of course, by a parent or guardian. We are so proud of our amazing and dedicated volunteers who are on duty rain or shine - we hope you will join us!
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A multi-media presentation will illustrate our educational work in the community and the unique challenges of protecting seals and other marine mammals in an urban environment. Included in the training is an overview of
NOAA's West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network and biology and behavior of seals and other pinnipeds (due to time frame, supplementary off-season sessions will include more marine mammals of Puget Sound).

For additional questions and info or to be placed on a contact list for future training opportunities, please
email us.

Pup responding well in rehab

(SEE LATEST PUPDATE END OF STORY)
Junebug, the dehydrated and thin newborn harbor seal pup taken to rehab on Tuesday afternoon, is doing well at PAWS Wildlife Center. Emily Meredith, Wildlife Rehabilitation Manager, reported yesterday morning that Junebug was “nice and bitey” after his first night of care - this feistiness is a good sign. On intake, the pup was given fluids for hydration and antibiotics for a swollen puncture wound on one of his front flippers. His chin was also scuffed up from sharp barnacle-covered rocks.

We just received word this afternoon that Junebug is responding well to his treatment and his wounds are healing. However, he still has a long road ahead of him. He needs to gain weight and pack on a thick layer of blubber to provide energy and warmth in the wild. He also needs to learn to eat solid food and how to hunt live prey. Learning to catch fish in a small rehab pool is vastly different than foraging for fish in the wide expanse of Puget Sound.

If Junebug manages to survive the lengthy rehab stay (his health is still tenuous), he will be released near a harbor seal haul-out, where hundreds of seals of all ages gather to rest and forage. There is no guarantee about his success post-release since his mom was not around to teach him all about how to be a harbor seal. It is the hope that Junebug will assimilate into a seal colony where there is safety in numbers and he can learn foraging and social skills from other seals.

PUPDATE (July 7, 2014)
We’re elated to report that Junebug continues to fare well in rehab. He has gained a bit of weight and is spending his days lounging on his pool pad, “swimming at his leisure”.

Seal pup taken to rehab after rescue from rocks

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A young girl named Ivy noticed a seal pup on the rocks below the Duwamish Head pier around 10:30 this morning. Her dad called the Seal Sitters hotline and first responder Lynn arrived minutes later. A woman with two children who also called in a report helped keep people back as Lynn swiftly stretched yellow tape between “Do Not Enter” signs and cones.

With the area finally secured, volunteers had a chance to observe the pup’s behavior and body condition. He was identified as Junebug by comparing facial markings of photos taken yesterday afternoon when the pup had rested along the Alki seawall. He was forced into the Sound by the surging tide around 6pm.

It appears that the pup swam to this location last evening, but was not visible to volunteers searching the beach. This morning, it became obvious that the pup was wedged in the jagged rocks - above the tideline, but not for long as the tide would be coming back in at a much higher level. Junebug tried, but could not free himself as much as he struggled. We knew we needed to pluck the pup from the rocks - to save him from exposure in the expected 90 degree heat and potential drowning at high tide.

Junebug’s body weight also looked noticeably thinner than that of a nursing pup with attending mom. After consultation with NOAA’s stranding expert and WDFW’s marine mammal biologist, it was determined that the dehydrated pup was likely abandoned at this very urban location. He was taken to PAWS Wildlife Center for assessment and admitted into rehab. Junebug is a full-term male pup who is between 5-8 days old and it is estimated that he had not been fed for at least 3 days.

Rehabilitation of harbor seal pups is a very lengthy and costly endeavor. Since Junebug is so young, he could be at PAWS for months. If you’d like to help PAWS defray costs for giving this pup and others a second chance to survive in the wild, please make a donation here.

Huge thanks to our colleagues at NOAA, WDFW and PAWS. We will keep you posted with updates on Junebug’s progress.

PUPDATE (7/3/14)
Junebug is faring pretty well so far in rehab. Please see July 3rd post for details.

Earliest pupping season on record for Seal Sitters

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Yet another newborn pup rested along West Seattle’s shore today - the third in less than 3 weeks and by far the earliest start to pupping season for Seal Sitters MMSN, now in our 8th year.

The hotline received a call mid-afternoon and first responders were quickly on the scene to discover a small, spotted pup nestled in the barnacle-encrusted rocks below the seawall. Volunteers established an extensive perimeter to reduce disturbance around the pup in hopes that the mom would return. The pup snoozed in the warm sun on a sparkling afternoon. Super-cool Seal Sitters volunteers Stella, age 8, and her sister Ruby, age 6, talked to curious kids and adults and informed them that the pup needed rest and quiet. The girls named the fluffy white pup Junebug. Also lending a hand to make sure Junebug stayed safe were new SS kid volunteers Savannah, age 8, and 3-year-old Juliette from Ballard.

Around 5:30pm, the incoming tide whipped the cold waters of Puget Sound over the pup and he swam along the shoreline looking for another place to come ashore. Volunteers followed his movements through binoculars and moved the perimeter when he finally came to rest. Junebug didn’t stay long, though, on the partially submerged, craggy rocks. Some onlookers thought they spotted another seal not too far offshore in the water, though the sighting was not confirmed by first responders. Volunteers scanned the nearby beaches but could not find the pup on shore. We’re hoping that Junebug was reunited with mom who is able to find a quiet and safe place to nurse him.

First responders will be out looking for Junebug at first light in the morning. If you see a pup on shore, please stay back and call our hotline @ 206-905-7325 (SEAL). If mom is frightened by people and dogs too close to her pup, she will likely abandon him.

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Seal Sitters has also been monitoring a yearling (seal born last year) that has picked a precarious place to haul out, a highly trafficked pier. Nicknamed Pierre (at left), he crawls onto the pier structure at high tide, rests for many hours and returns to Puget Sound when the tide returns. Thankfully, the pup has gone largely unnoticed by passersby so he is not unduly stressed.

If you see a pup resting high above the water on a dock or pier, it’s important that you don’t scare him, causing potential injury in a fall. Additionally, It is much safer for him to rest on the timbers than on the beach with off-leash dogs.

PUPDATE (7/1/14 6:30am)
No sign of Junebug at dawn this morning.
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