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Busy day for Seal Sitters volunteers protecting two pups

Around 8am this morning, Seal Sitters’ hotline guru (and founding member) Larry answered the early call of a seal pup on the beach at Lincoln Park. He promptly contacted our first responder who took one last swig of coffee, bolted out of the house and headed south in her car.

Lugging signboards and stakes into the north end of the heavily wooded park, she could see the white pup resting mid-beach (photo right). The pup had apparently come ashore around the 4am high tide. Awaiting our arrival and keeping people away was reporting party Janette. She said, not surprisingly, there had been many off-leash dogs. Thank you, Janette and Garrett, for keeping the pup safe until we could get there!

A sizable tape perimeter was set with informational signs and a call was placed to Seal Sitters’ scheduler for the day. Connie lined up volunteers who talked to a great many people throughout the morning. The pup was thinner than we like to see and most likely a weaner struggling to get the hang of foraging on his own. Nicknamed Tigger, he (or she) returned to the water around noon, having enjoyed a long snooze. We hope he managed to have a substantial Sunday brunch in the Sound and packs on some blubber.

Around 10 am, the hotline rang with a report of another pup at a second location - along Harbor Avenue below the sea wall (photo left). First responders scrambled to West Seattle’s north end and taped off part of the sidewalk above the resting pup, while still allowing plenty of room for bicyclists, skateboarders and strollers to share.

One man respectfully asked why it was necessary to tape off the area at all since there was a fence at the edge of the seawall. We explained that seals have excellent hearing and vision. Prey animals, they are very wary of their surroundings. People standing too close (and directly above) creates undue stress for a pup who desperately needs to rest quietly onshore and warm up.

This pup was on the thin side, too, and it was vital that precious calories weren’t wasted unnecessarily if he was scared into the water - only to have to swim to another location. In a daily struggle for survival, minor inconveniences for people can truly be the difference between life and death for a harbor seal pup.

A couple visiting from Spokane was thrilled at the unexpected sight of the sleek, silver pup on the beach below. So, we dubbed the pup Spokane, which means “children of the sun” in the Interior Salish language. On this very sunny and warm day, the pup was reluctant to return to the cold water. The incoming tide caused him to move several times north along the sand, seeking a little more shut-eye. Volunteers shifted our tape and signs with each move, passing out seal stickers to kids and talking to a steady stream of interested passersby.

Finally around 2pm, with virtually no beach remaining, Spokane swam out into cobalt blue Elliott Bay. Volunteers checked the nearby beaches north and south, removed our materials and some of our die-hard Mariners fans even managed to get home in time to see the bottom of the ninth. Thanks to all of our dedicated volunteers who helped give the pups some quiet time today!
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