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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.

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.

No Pebbles again today - confirmed to be weaned

Pebbles was nowhere to be seen again today. Pup were spotted swimming offshore, however, but there was no way to identify them because they were too far away. Pebbles has a very unique marking under his right nostril so if he were in close enough, we would be able to recognize him. After consultation with WDFW’s marine mammal research biologist, it has been confirmed that the pup is weaned. We had found a number of bones in his waste. Apparently, of all the many necropsies WDFW has performed on seal pups, no stomach contents have yet to consist of both food and mother’s milk at the same time. This leads to the conclusion that once a pup begins the weaning process, nursing is not continued by the mom. So, Pebbles is out there trying to make a living on his own now. Let’s hope he can master the art of fishing, continues to be a very healthy blubberball, and makes a reappearance on our beaches. In 2007, Spud hauled out for a number of days and then disappeared, but returned fat and happy two weeks later - much to the joy of our volunteers.

Added note: Our crack of dawn volunteers are happy to report that, while waiting patiently to see if Pebbles would haul out this morning, a very friendly fisherman thanked us, told us how much he supported our work and that he disapproved of the attitudes of some of his fishermen colleagues. That was a real boost to our spirits and made us smile in the drizzly darkness. We would like to add that there were many fishermen and pleasure boaters who gladly went a bit out of their way to accommodate Pebbles over the few days he was at the ramp - and we cannot thank them enough.

Where's Pebbles?

Pebbles was not sighted on shore today in West Seattle, ending his record-setting haul out streak at 15 days. Volunteers were at the boat ramp well before dawn, anticipating his appearance.

Throughout the day, Seal Sitters, like Anna and her daughter, ET, checked beaches and coves. Pebbles appears to have begun the weaning process, since fish bones were found in his waste. His success at foraging will determine his new patterns of resting behavior. Let’s hope that we see Pebbles again soon!

Day 15 - Pebbles rested, volunteers exhausted

Like clockwork, Pebbles hauled out before dawn this morning. Volunteers quickly taped off the boat ramp as an unaware boater almost backed his trailer over him. For the past 14 days, volunteers in shifts have spent 12+ hours protecting Pebbles alone. Today, day 15, Pebbles must have decided we needed a break since he went back into the water about 1:30 pm, just in time to avoid a rush of fishermen returning from a day of fishing and pleasure boaters heading out for an afternoon sail on a gorgeous fall day.

Pebbles’ schedule and habits have been changing a bit so he may be beginning the weaning process. This does not mean that his mom is still not nursing him, but he may now be foraging a bit on his own. It could be that hunger led him to return to the Bay earlier than usual.

Pebbles rested directly under the Marine Mammal Protection Act sign - one smart seal pup! The MMPA was written into law in 1972 to protect marine mammals from harassment and endangerment. NOAA recommends a distance of 100 yards from a marine mammal, but that is rarely possible in an urban setting. When Pebbles was hauling out at the cove near the Water Taxi, it was feasible to establish a rather large perimeter so that he might be undisturbed. When a pup hauls out in a situation such as the boat ramp or Alki Beach near a sea wall, however, it is much more of a challenge to protect the pups - yet still allow the public access to areas for work or play. Seal Sitters tries to find a reasonable balance so that all species can truly share the shore.

Another tense day at the boat ramp

Pebbles unknowingly created another stressful situation at the ramp today, hauling out as a number of boats were launching for a day of fishing. Had our volunteers not been present he could have easily been hurt or killed by a boat trailer. Thankfully, he hauled out at the same end ramp so that boats were still able to launch and retrieve without too much inconvenience.

Over the course of the day, Pebbles crawled up high onto the pavement to the edge of the blacktop parking lot. Apparently, any smooth stretch of “beach” looks appealing to an exhausted pup needing rest. The spot he chose created particular challenges for our volunteers since we could not close access for trucks and trailers to drive through the lot. The public benefit, however, was that people were able to be
much closer to a seal pup than is allowed by law - within a few feet. Pebbles drifted in a deep sleep, somewhat oblivious to all the attention surrounding him. Shown at right, our dedicated volunteers Eilene and David explain to a group of children why Pebbles is on shore.

Seal Sitters volunteers stood watch for over 13 hours today. One very kind fisherman, Alex, even offered us pizza at the end of the day. That was a tremendous boost for our very tired volunteers after three successive days of confrontations. Seal Sitters will continue to ensure the safety of any pup that chooses this location to rest.

Pebbles at ramp again today - with two small friends

Our volunteer was stunned to see not just Pebbles at the ramp early this morning, but two more pups as well. A fisherman’s off-leash dog and other disturbances scared the other two pups back into the water shortly after, however. Fortunately, Pebbles was snuggled against the rocks. Seal Sitters taped off the section of the boat ramp that directly impacted the pup. Fishermen were free to launch and retrieve their boats in all lanes except the far one (see photo). On this dreary day, only a handful of boats were launched. Once again, certain fishermen created drama over the presence of pups at the ramp, challenging our authority to enforce the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Seal Sitters would like to stress that the definition of harassment or “take” of a marine mammal does not just mean poking with sticks or other acts of violence. It means any alteration of the marine mammal’s behavior, such as causing them to return to the water not of their own accord.

Pebbles rested comfortably as volunteers kept watch in drizzle and downpour until he returned to the water about 5 pm. A second pup made two brief appearances and was one of the pups scared into the water early in the morning. Thanks to all of the volunteers who have put in two very stressful days. We all hope that these pups find a safer refuge soon.

Trouble at boat ramp for Pebbles

Pebbles hauled out for the 12th day today, but the pup made the unwise choice of hauling out at the boat ramp instead of the safety of his cove. Seal Sitters were concerned when Pebbles did not show up at the cove this morning, but expect that his patterns might change a bit as he starts the weaning process. He may choose other haulouts or haul out at different times. We received a call about 10 am that there was a pup on the boat ramp. Photo id comfirmed it was Pebbles.

Sadly, there were a few fishermen who were incensed when asked to use an alternative ramp to load and retrieve their boats so that Pebbles would not be scared into the water - and possibly separated from his mom. This, on a day with very little boat traffic. They harassed our volunteers with obscene gestures and ranting, obscenity-laced tirades. Our volunteers have spent many, many hours over the last weeks - in the sun, in the cold, in the rain - looking over the seal pups who have come ashore seeking safety. They do not deserve to be threatened by bullies who have no respect for wildlife. Photos of the boats and the liscense numbers of those fishermen have been turned in for complaint and the incident will be investigated by authorities.

Seal Sitters would like to thank the many understanding fishermen who cooperated today with our volunteers and Parks. Fortunately, they far outweigh the belligerent few. We appreciate that they were willing to take an extra fifteen minutes of their time to ensure that a vulnerable, nursing seal pup might survive. And obey a Federal mandate that marine mammals are protected from harassment.

After the many disruptions of boats coming and going, Pebbles finally returned to the Bay about 2:30. He was not seen elsewhere on shore.

Pebbles hauls out again - but this time with a close call

Pebbles continues his marathon haul out near the Water Taxi - the 9th day in a row now. However, volunteers had a scare today when an off leash dog ran onto the closed beach chasing a toy thrown by his owner. The north end of the cove was taped off and clearly marked “Protected Marine Mammal”. The dog ran down the beach on a path directly for Pebbles, but volunteer Maggie threw a body block at the large black dog. Eventually the dog was restrained and the owner removed him from the beach. Had the dog scared this nursing pup back into the water to be separated from the mom, Pebbles would die. Seal Sitters loves dogs, but we cannot say too many times that dogs are not allowed on Seattle beaches - dogs injure and kill seal pups every year. Thankfully, volunteers were on scene to prevent a possible tragedy.

Pebbles sets haul out record - 8 days straight

Pebbles has set a new haul out record for seal pups since Seal Sitters was founded in 2007, extending his streak to 8 consecutive days. Spud was the former record holder in ’07. Pebbles likes to haul out at sunrise and stay until early evening light. Of late, he like to nestle in the timber on the beach, making him quite difficult to see at times. But most of the time, he’s quite visible and has enchanted a fan club of all ages.

Pebbles still looks like a happy little blubberball. In this photo, he curls and stretches his rear flippers in a sign of relaxed contentment. As time goes by we have become convinced there’s most likely a mom in the picture - due to photos of erupted teeth, the pup’s small size (a juvenile sea gull is bigger than Pebbles), good body weight, and an eyewitness report of an adult just offshore when Pebbles returned to the water one evening. It is imperative that he be able to continue to use this beach as a safe refuge from people and dogs. Thanks to all the divers who were so considerate early this morning and changed locations so as not to jeopardize Pebbles’ health.

Pebbles spends 5th day on the beach

Pebbles spent yet another day lounging on our shore. True to form, he hauls out early in the morning, rests all day and hauls back out early evening. Today he returned to the water about 5:30, as a heavy drizzle soaked our volunteers. He’s a regular celebrity in West Seattle and residents and commuters have been checking in on him each day. At left, Dan Campau of Seattle Parks Department helps establish a barricade early this morning.

Pebbles is still a chubby and alert little pup. Standing watch over a seal pup while the Seattle skyline looms before you, drives home the reality that our urban environment creates major challenges (and responsibilities) for the survival of these smallest of marine mammals. This is why it is so critical to share the shore with our wildlife.

Pebbles entertains onlookers

Yesterday, for the fourth day in a row, Pebbles rested on our West Seattle beach for a full 12 hours or more. He came in at high tide yesterday morning and stayed until early evening, much to the delight of onlookers, such as Eva and her daughter (shown at right). Dedicated SS volunteer, Betty, enjoys the young girl’s reaction to seeing Pebbles stretch in the September sun.

Our volunteers have put in many long hours looking over Pebbles, enjoying gorgeous weather and the beautiful scenery of the Seattle skyline and boat traffic as well. Alki Kayak Tours has been so accommodating in making sure that the pup remains undisturbed. They even launched their paddleboard race from the cove just south of the Water Taxi. Pebbles and Seal Sitters sends them huge thanks! It is good to know that Pebbles feels safe enough to continue to haul out daily and rest, under the protective watch of volunteers, business owners, and beach residents.

Pebbles digs West Seattle

Pebbles has been a regular now on the city-side beach for the past three days. Our volunteer spotted the soaking wet pup near some logs about 6:15 this morning, just after he hauled out. Shortly thereafter, Pebbles then crawled up a few feet more and nestled between two large logs on the beach, virtually invisible from the sidewalk nearby where people rushed to catch the Water Taxi. The fact that he could not be seen had a good and bad side. It was a good thing that crowds of people would not gather nearby to disturb his much-needed rest; but bad in the sense that anyone who walked the beach could not see him and would scare him back into the water. Later in the day, Pebbles ventured out from his hiding spot, moving closer to the water’s edge where he debated for several more hours whether to return to Elliott Bay.

Volunteers were lined up and worked in shifts from early morning til early evening to keep people from wandering onto the beach. Since summer is over and the beach was cloudy, crowd control was not an issue. Many thanks to Alki Kayaks for being so considerate and launching their boats from the opposite cove.

Pebbles spent over 12 hours resting on shore as volunteers, such as Penny (at right), watched patiently and talked with curious bystanders. It is encouraging for Seal Sitters to have such a healthy and alert little pup on our shores after watching over so many terribly thin ones.

Pebbles back on the beach and a "fun" day at Alki

Our seal pup, Pebbles, rested on a city-side beach again today. He is a relatively chubby (at least by weaned pup standards) little pup. He returned to the water around 3 pm.

In the meantime, Alki Community Council sponsored Alki Fun Day on the beach and Seal Sitters staffed a table at the event. Shown at left are volunteers Julie, Julia and Terri who, along with many others, spent time today talking to the public about seal pups. Thanks to everyone who volunteered, both seal sitting Pebbles and working the table. Special thanks to our tireless volunteer coordinators, Nancy and Jane, who put in many hours making sure Seal Sitters was represented today.

Pup season is in full swing on the beaches

Pup season is formally in full swing on the beaches of West Seattle. Yesterday a pup with good body weight hauled out onto the rocks at high tide on the Elliott Bay side. The public was concerned for his safety, but it is not unusual for a seal to seem marooned when indeed they will generally return to the water when the tide returns. The pup had a little discharge from the eyes and some small cuts on the rear flippers. The pup (at left), nicknamed Rocky by a volunteer, returned to the water early evening.

Another pup hauled out this morning on an Elliott Bay beach. Tucked up against the sea wall, he was largely unnoticed as the partly sunny day drew walkers along Harbor Avenue. This pup also had good body weight with no noticeable wounds. He was quite alert and returned to the water as the tide crept closer about 4:45 this afternoon. Thanks to all the kayakers and scuba divers for being so respectful and keeping their distance. This pup, nicknamed Pebbles for his camouflage coat that matched the beach rocks, had a nice long rest on our shore as volunteers kept a collective eye on him.
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