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Otis Redding

Adult seal finds safe haven on West Seattle beach

For a number of evenings in a row, an adult harbor seal has been coming ashore to rest on a sandy West Seattle beach. Thankfully, there is only one point of access to the small beach which enables Seal Sitters to establish a secure perimeter around the seal, doing our best to ensure that he won’t be disturbed.

It’s unusual for us to have an adult seal on an urban beach, since they are extremely wary of people; most times, they will be seen on the platforms off shore. However, over the years, we have had several adult seals use the dock at Don Armeni boat launch, including Otis Redding (who rested on the dock for many days in a row while he healed from an ear and parasitic infection) and Heidi Klum, a gorgeous blond female. At night, the abandoned and inaccessible dock at Jack Block Park is heavily used by seals and, most likely, the more remote beaches around West Seattle are used then as well.

This large male has been nicknamed Captain Nemo and appears to be healthy, albeit a tad bit thin. We thank the neighbors in the high rise condos across the street who keep watch out their windows late at night, making sure the tape perimeter has not been breached. One night some teenagers crossed the tape, standing on the sea wall above the seal taking photos. An alert neighbor yelled out that they needed to get behind the perimeter. Captain Nemo has developed quite a passionate fan base over the past week or so. Protecting him has been a real treat for volunteers and the public.

Otis Redding update

(please see end of story for latest info)
Otis Redding, our struggling adult harbor seal, is still hanging out on the boat dock. He is progressively getting thinner, but his infections seem to be improving and there is no longer evidence of parasites in his fecal matter. He is still managing to forage, but seemed a little less alert today. He returned to the water this evening, but we expect to see him again tomorrow. It is a difficult choice to determine whether intervention would help or make matters worse. The stress of capture could reverse the improvements he has made by being able to rest undisturbed on the dock. Be assured he is being closely monitored by SS volunteers and experts who analyze our photos daily (SS cannot thank them enough). Thanks to everyone who uses the boat ramp for being so considerate of Otis’ presence.

(update Apr/24/2010 7:03 am) To our knowledge, Otis has not been on the dock for the last 48 hours (he could have been there off hours, but just not seen). We are hoping this is a sign that his infections have healed to the point where he can fish successfully and that he has chosen a less busy spot to haul out and fatten up. Since adult harbor seals are very shy and tend to avoid people, this would be normal behavior. Of course, he may have become accustomed to the hospitality of West Seattle citizens and return for some more recovery time. If you see a seal on the dock or elsewhere on shore, please call our hotline @ 206-905-7325 (SEAL) so we can continue to monitor the health of our pinnipeds.

Otis Redding thanks his fans

Otis Redding, our adult male, is continuing to haul out and rest under the watchful eye of Seal Sitters and a concerned public. SS is in daily contact with NOAA/WDFW with reviews of photos for health assessments. The consensus is to let Otis continue to try to heal from an ear infection, possible lung issues and parasites. He is eating and pooping - a good thing! This means he has the strength to forage even though he looks terribly skinny. The WDFW biologist informed us that his ear and lung complications make it difficult for him to deep dive and stay under water the necessary time to forage for food. However, he is getting lots of rest at the boat dock. Otis (and Seal Sitters) salutes the Coast Guard and boaters who have made a special effort to come and go quietly, now that they know he’s trying to mend.

Otis returned to Elliott Bay about 6:20 this morning - hopefully, out looking for some breakfast! We will continue to keep you posted on his progress. NOAA’s stranding expert will be checking on him if he returns to the dock.

UPDATE (5:30 pm) After examining the dead gray whale on Arroyo Beach, Kristin Wilkinson of NOAA observed Otis late this morning and mid-afternoon. She says that while not able to fish optimally, he is drawing on his blubber layer - another reason he looks thin. Assuming he is not elderly or suffering from a compromised immune system, there is reason to believe that he may improve if allowed to rest in the sun undisturbed as he has been over the last few days. The fact that he is returning to the water and then back to rest is a very positive sign.

Otis Redding singin' the blues

Sadly, after a three day absence, our spotted adult seal Otis is showing signs of distress (discharge from ear and mouth). He was extremely thin as well as he rested on the boat dock today. While he was quite alert, typically an adult seal would flee at the disruptions at the boat ramp this morning, including a private boat that made many repeated trips back and forth along his dock. This is a strong indication that he needs extra rest from having compromised health. Otis finally returned to the water around 11:40 when two very noisy Coast Guard security boats landed at the far ramp. Examination of his fecal material left on the dock showed evidence of parasites. NOAA and WDFW specialists have examined our photos and Seal Sitters is on alert for his return so that he can be closely monitored. Should you see Otis at the boatramp or elsewhere on shore, please call SS dispatch immediately @ 206-905-7325 (SEAL).

Trans-species morning

Otis Redding enjoyed the boat dock again this morning, along with a feathered friend looking for breakfast leftovers. The cold, misty morning was quiet, with very few walkers disturbing his rest. He returned to the water mid-morning, but not before a weak sun filtered through the ominous clouds.

Should you see Otis over the next few days, make sure to let him relax and observe from a far distance. He appears to be quite healthy, but might have an ear infection. He’s very alert and adult harbor seals are quite shy and wary of people - and, therefore, easily scared back into the water. They need to gain strength and warm up just like seal pups!

Soulful seal on the dock of the bay

“Otis Redding”, a laid-back adult male seal with big soulful eyes, has been a regular visitor of late to the boat dock on Elliott Bay – watching the ships roll in, and watch ‘em roll away again. He had a nice rest today until the launching of Coast Guard pontoons and other research vessels finally hustled him back into the water.

Netsilik Eskimos believed that while a seal’s body would perish, the seal’s soul was immortal. And, if treated with respect, the same seal would return in earthly form to be caught over and over again. (The Pinnipeds: Seals, Sea lions, and Walruses, Marianne Reidman. University of California Press)
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