Nov/13/14 03:18 PM
Dyanna noticed the pup had a 4-digit tag on the left rear flipper, indicating a stint at a rehab facility. In Washington State, rehabilitated pinnipeds have a 5-digit tag. She taped off the area with yellow Protected Marine Mammal tape, posted informational signs and observed behavior at length before leaving the somewhat secluded location, popular with a “party” crowd. Early the next morning, the pup was back on the beach.
Three months later, far away in Washington, WDFW monitored Lithium’s activities in South Puget Sound for 5 straight days. Lithium, wary of human presence, was observed coming and going from the beach at different times - a good sign. The spit is the only place to haul out and rest in that area when there are extreme high tides, such as last weekend. It is located in Burley Lagoon, a shallow estuary with lots of small bait fish, cutthroat trout and chum salmon returning this time of year. Thankfully, there has not been much boat traffic or gillnet fishing of late. Other seals have been observed routinely resting on the oyster floats inside the lagoon in the early morning or late afternoon. The pup is in fair body condition, common to many struggling weaned pups during late fall and winter months. Lithium was last sighted on Sunday afternoon.
A recent study of satellite-tagged harbor seal pups by SeaDoc Society revealed that rehabbed pups travel much further in search of food than wild-weaned pups. This would only contribute further to Lithium’s low body weight as she expends more calories traveling greater distances to forage. If you happen to see a tagged animal, please inform your local marine mammal stranding network of the location (map with networks contact info here). This information is extremely valuable in helping biologists determine success rates of rehabbed seals.