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Cool kids protect wildlife

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Unlike most marine mammal stranding networks, Seal Sitters encourages young people to join and help us protect wildlife. Because we live in such an urban area, it much easier for them to participate than in more remote regions. Each training session, we are lucky enough to attract more great kids and parents (like new volunteers Colleen and 11-year-old son Fionn) who are anxious to learn about our marine environment and how they can make a difference.

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Colleen and Fionn were among the many volunteers who watched in shifts over seal pup Truffles, resting at Don Armeni boat launch on Monday. 10-year-old twin sisters Megan and Kiera were also on duty with their proud aunt Raiana, a long-time volunteer (photo right), talking with interested passersby. They let them know that Truffles was about 6 - 8 months old, all on his own and needed to rest to gain strength to forage for food.

The boat ramp is an inherently dangerous place for a seal pup to snooze. With cars driving through the parking lot, boats and trailers in an out of the launch area, and people walking dogs, it would be easy for a pup to get chased back into the water or possibly be injured. All the more reason to have vigilant volunteers on hand. Thankfully, yesterday was a slow day for boat traffic and Truffles was able to extend his siesta til late in the evening. We have not seen Truffles since Monday night, but have been on the lookout for him with his distinct balding coat (see earlier post).

While our volunteers were admiring the Seattle skyline and Truffles’ stretches and yawns, we were alerted that there was an injured Canada Goose nearby. The severely bleeding adult bird was captured by Seal Sitters - volunteers David and Eilene kept the goose from returning to Elliott Bay, James gently subdued him with a towel and we managed to get him into a kennel and transferred to PAWS in Lynnwood. Kudos to the goose-wrangling team! We will keep you posted as we hear more about the bird’s condition and possible cause of the bloody wound.

Volunteers enjoy special treat of Truffles

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The Seal Sitters hotline rang about 7:45 yesterday morning: a skittish seal pup was at the tideline at Duwamish Head (also known as Luna Park). Our first responder was on the scene within minutes, but the only trace of the pup was a long line of tracks leading across the sand back into the water. After waiting about 15 minutes to see if the pup might return, she left to check nearby beaches. An alert resident in the condo across from the small Luna Park beach called her cell phone, saying the pup had returned.

In a frigid downpour, the first responder established a protective tape barrier to keep people from disturbing the pup, hidden among the rocks near the water’s edge. Nicknamed Truffles, volunteers watched over him in a steady rain until around 1pm when the incoming tide washed over his flippers and he swam off into the Sound.

Around 5pm, hotline operator Julia received another call of a pup at Don Armeni Boat Launch. Our responder found Truffles snoozing behind a log. Once again, tape and barricades were stretched around the area, providing a safe buffer zone for the pup to rest. Photographs of Truffles’ coat with significant balding patches on the neck, flipper and belly were sent to WDFW’s marine mammal biologist for input. We have seen several West Seattle seals in recent years with a similar condition. The most likely cause is a fungal infection, much like ringworm. The condition can be complicated with a bacterial infection and can also be caused by thyroid issues. We are keeping a close eye on Truffles’ health.

Truffles was still sleeping onshore late last night, but was gone at 5:30 this morning. About 15 minutes after our first responder removed all the tape and barricades, Truffles reappeared (of course) and flopped onshore behind the same log. The perimeter was reestablished and volunteers were lined up to protect him throughout the day and long into the evening. We expect to see Truffles again tomorrow morning. She looked thinner today and had some coughing bouts, so we hope she is out foraging tonight, packing on some blubber by eating small fish, shrimp and squid. Blubber will not only help keep her warm in the bitter cold waters of the Sound, but also provide energy and help boost her immune system.

Ruby and Buddy enjoyed a sunny day on Jack Block Park’s protected beach and were still there at last report around 5:30.
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