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Quiet off season finally starts to heat up with Spring

This has by far been the quietest off-season for Seal Sitters since the group formed over 7 years ago. Last winter and early Spring, we had lots of seal pup activity. Jack Block Park was a hotbed for harbor seals and the inaccessible abandoned dock there was loaded with up to 13 seals of all ages each day for months. The public access pier itself often had seal pups resting on the timbers accessed at high tide. Rehab Ruby and her pal Buddy fascinated onlookers with their friendship on a protected beach there. This year, however, there has only been occasional sightings of pups within the confines of the Park, swimming and foraging offshore.

Last Sunday the 16th, however, a weaned harbor seal pup was discovered sleeping in the rain on a small beach below the sidewalk leading to the public beach. First responder for the day Dana stretched yellow tape and strategically placed cones and signs to add a small buffer zone above the pup. She observed the often-alert pup, nicknamed Neha (Hindu name for love, rain), over the next few hours. Due to inclement weather, there was little pedestrian traffic and the pup (shown at left) finally returned to Elliott Bay, but was later spotted stretching and yawning on the nearby, inaccessible dock.

On March 12th, Seal Sitters’ dedicated hotline (206-905-7325) received a call of a pup on a private beach near the Harbor West Condos. First responder Lynn was on the scene within minutes and observed a reasonably robust pup (by wild-weaned standards) who exhibited a short coughing spell, not uncommon for weaned pups. Special thanks to homeowners Michelle and Renee for allowing volunteer access for health assessment and to close off one end of the beach at lower tide. Seal pups struggle through the long winter months and we appreciate all homeowners notifying us when a pup is on their beach. Nicknamed Samoa, the pup returned to the water at early morning’s high tide, but was sighted again on the afternoon of the 17th on the rocky beach at Constellation Park. Seal Sitters’ volunteers distributed small informational brochures and talked to a number of people out enjoying a pleasant afternoon strolling along Beach Drive’s waterfront. Samoa returned to Puget Sound around 5pm.

Early morning of Sunday the 9th, a seal pup was noticed snoozing at the end of one of the docks at Don Armeni Boat Ramp. Access to the dock was blocked off with a barricade and volunteers spent a long day talking to the public about seal pups’ need to rest and warm up. The pup left the dock briefly when the launch of a sailboat created a disturbance. Minutes later, he hauled out to the same spot, settling back in for a rest. The pup was still there late at night, as volunteers did ‘round-the-clock checks on him. Early the next morning, first responders found “Clock” close to the same spot on the wooden ramp as the night before. Responders discussed the option of capture and transport to rehab, but his position just feet from the water posed a doubtful chance for a rescue; the pup was alert enough to be aware of events around him and anyone approaching down the long, narrow dock with a net. A decision was made to let the pup continue to rest rather than risk scaring him away from this safe haven.

However, the pup spent a second, very cold night on the dock. At 6am, first responders gathered in the darkness at Don Armeni to attempt a very challenging rescue. Upon approach, however, the awakening pup slid off his perch and disappeared into the black waters of Elliott Bay - our first unsuccessful rescue in 7 years. Volunteers kept an eye out for Clock throughout the day and evening, but he was not sighted again. We hope his refuge on shore allowed him the strength to forage and pack on some blubber.

Heartfelt thanks to the first responders and volunteers who protected these pups!
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