(Photo by Buzz Shaw)
A season of sadness for the Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network, whose first responder Robin Lindsey reports an overview of pups losing their struggle for survival too many times this season:
I am sad to report that we seem to be having a second season in a row with emaciated pups and lots of mortality. In (recent) weeks, 9 seal pups have died on our West Seattle shores. Many of these pups are those that we have looked after on the beach, most for many days in a row. We thought your readers would want an update about pups they may have seen on the beach. I cannot stress enough that newly weaned seal pups are in a daily struggle between life and death – and we thank the West Seattle community for their continued support in our efforts to protect them. Rehabilitation options are extremely limited and there have been new funding cuts which will virtually eliminate the opportunity for necropsies to determine cause of mortality and further research.
I have included a photo showing the recovery of the body of one of the pups from the Alki platform. This terribly thin pup, nicknamed Angel, was only on shore very briefly one day and then died on the offshore platform. We had to wait several days for a window of opportunity when there were no other seals on the raft to remove the body. While it is not Seal Sitters’ responsibility to remove an animal in this situation, we did not want a decomposing pup to deter other seals to use this safe refuge. Nor did we want the public upset by such a disturbing sight. Thanks to Seattle Aquarium volunteer Jarett Kaplan, a waterfront resident, who alerted us that the opportunity had arisen and who rowed me out to examine, mark with biodegradable paint, and sink the body to nourish other marine life. Seal Sitters’ Buzz Shaw, retired zoologist from the Seattle Aquarium, also participated in the retrieval.
If anyone has a kayak they are not using and would like to donate one to our group, it would be very helpful in situations where we have to make a water response to an entangled animal or retrieval in a situation such as this.
On a brighter note, emaciated seal pup Snapper (rescued from Cormorant Cove in early August) has thrived at PAWS Wildlife Center in Lynnwood. Snapper will be released back to the wild in mid-October. Unfortunately, because Snapper was only a couple of weeks old when taken to PAWS, he did not have the benefit of being taught how to forage by his mom. His chances for survival back in the wild are not as great as a rehabbed pup who had been fully weaned, but we hope this feisty pup beats the odds!
The Seal Sitters’ blubberblog site has more details on the deaths Robin mentions; any time you see a marine mammal on the beach, alive or not, call SS at 206-905-SEAL.