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Cold volunteers enjoy seal pup siesta

Following several stormy and frigid days, Seal Sitters was not surprised to get a call early yesterday morning about a pup hauled out on the sand at Alki. It is not uncommon for seals to ride out storms in the sea rather than be whipped by wind and waves on shore. Exhausted, pups often appear on the beach following rough weather in need of sleep and to warm up in the sun. Our responders quickly taped off a large perimeter in anticipation of alot of pedestrian traffic out enjoying a beautiful, but bitterly cold, Sunday in West Seattle.

The seemingly healthy pup soon attracted a crowd and was nicknamed Sylvie by 5 year old Kayla. Many people were surprised that seal pups were still in the area, but we explained that as long as there was a food source of small bait fish, pups will continue to forage and rest here throughout the winter. An incoming tide whirled around Sylvie, convincing her to leave the beach and swim south along the seawall, seeking another haulout spot. Our volunteer spotted her flop-hopping up the cement steps along the Alki promenade across from Cactus restaurant. Surprised walkers gave her plenty of room to feel safe coming back ashore and she quickly settled in and fell asleep in the sun. It is quite a strange sight to see a seal pup sleeping on the
cement steps, but not a terribly unusual occurrence. Over the past few years, we have had a number of pups who come in at high tide onto the steps. Seals are cumbersome on land, so it is difficult for them to escape quickly back down the stairs as the tide recedes. This is all the more reason that dogs need to be leashed near the beach at all times. You may be anticipating the possibility of encountering a pup on the beach, but you sure don’t expect to see one on the sidewalk. Among our pups who have chosen this unique haulout was last year’s pup Bonair, who really went to the extreme!

Volunteers put in a very long day and well into the night, making sure that this spotted little pup could rest as quietly as possible in such an urban and potentially dangerous setting. Yesterday we talked to approximately 273 quiet and respectful bystanders, including many inquisitive children, about seal biology, the work of the stranding network and volunteer opportunities. Luckily, Sylvie was not terribly skittish and the tired pup rested well over 15 hours on the beach, returning to Puget Sound during the night. Thanks to our frozen volunteers for putting in so many hours on a terribly chilly day!
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