Seal Sitters mourning 9 lost pups; seeking kayak donation

September 28, 2013 at 2:40 am | In West Seattle news, Wildlife | 26 Comments

(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.

26 Comments

  1. sad. so is it lack of food for the moms that is causing this decline?

    Comment by ttt — 9:19 am September 28, 2013 #

  2. Same as ttt what is causing this decline in pups making it, it is so sad.

    Comment by payrollgirl — 10:03 am September 28, 2013 #

  3. Very sad. But people, where do you keep your life jackets?

    Comment by Wendell — 10:13 am September 28, 2013 #

  4. I don’t understand the purpose of marking the body with biodegradable paint.

    Comment by Rocky Raccoon — 10:54 am September 28, 2013 #

  5. Are their moms being killed by the fishermen and that is why these pups are starving?

    Comment by Silly Goose — 11:18 am September 28, 2013 #

  6. Because funding has been slashed for research (and it is going to get worse), we do not know why these pups are so thin. I can tell you, however, that the pups that have been necropsied this season have had virtually nothing in their stomachs and their blubber lining FAR below what is necessary to survive. We don’t know if it is lack of forage fish, shrimp and squid that make up seal pups’ diet or the effects of toxins and/or disease.

    Pups are weaned at only 4-6 weeks old, assuming the mom is still alive or not scared off by human interference or predators. Some of these pups could have been born prematurely and, therefore, weaned too soon. A mom can only nurse her pup so long before she needs to restore her own fat supplies for HER survival as winter months approach.

    Any marine mammal that is not taken for necropsy (needs to be fresh dead for tissue samples) and returned to the water is marked with biodegradable paint. This ensures if the animal surfaces in another location, we know it is one we have already reported to NOAA.

    As far as life jackets, we don’t even have a boat! :-) We can’t thank Jarett enough for rowing me out there to tend to the dead pup.

    Comment by Robin/Seal Sitters — 12:23 pm September 28, 2013 #

  7. My understanding is that these are newly weaned pups and must fend for themselves. It’s unfortunate, but is the overall Puget Sound mortality rate for harbor seals significantly higher than normal? I’m unclear about that. I love animals, but the harsh reality is most don’t survive their first year. If they did, the population would be too high.

    Comment by Ray West — 12:39 pm September 28, 2013 #

  8. The seal pups are starving because their moms are being run off either by inconsiderate kayakers and boaters but mostly by folks who walk their dogs on the beach, which is illegal. (http://www.seattle.gov/parks/beaches.asp)

    Not only is walking with your dogs on the beach illegal but it could put your beloved pet at risk. Please reconsider walking your dogs on the beach, leash or no leash, people will take your picture and submit it to NOAA and you will get a ticket like I did when I first moved here.

    Comment by Alki Observer — 1:19 pm September 28, 2013 #

  9. who do we contact about a kayak donation?

    Comment by sc — 1:48 pm September 28, 2013 #

  10. weather or not people with dogs on the beach is contributing to this, either way, its just obnoxious. there are many reasons dogs are not allowed on beaches here, and regardless of what you think about it, its the law. you and Fluffums are not a special exception.

    Comment by flimflam — 2:11 pm September 28, 2013 #

  11. Pretty sweeping conclusion Alki Observer, do you have any real scientific data to back up your statement ? You may have a valid point but by blaming it all on the inconsiderate kayakers and dogs on the beach can lead to chasing after a red herring and never truly understanding what all of the contributing factors are here.

    Comment by Tony — 5:40 pm September 28, 2013 #

  12. I do have real scientific data, Tony, thanks for asking. Yes, there are many contributing factors besides kayakers and dogs that lead to the demise of innocent seal pups. Shall we talk global warming and overdevelopment? Limited maritime laws that keep ocean life from prospering as they once did? Well, we cannot do much about those things, HOWEVER, we can keep our dogs off the beaches, no? We can stay 100 yards from the seals, correct? Why don’t we then? This was my point and please leave Cobbett’s idiom alone, nobody is impressed with your psuedo-concern and your very real righteousness.

    Comment by Alki Observer — 6:44 pm September 28, 2013 #

  13. So why didn’t you site the publication where the data was published?

    Comment by AIDM — 9:08 pm September 28, 2013 #

  14. Maybe this is, conversely, an indication that there are very healthy populations of harbor seals, these deaths notwithstanding.

    Comment by G — 9:35 pm September 28, 2013 #

  15. Great response, Alki Observer.
    The Seattle Times piece on ocean acidification a couple Sundays back should leave no doubt in anyone’s mind as to the peril our oceans now endure.
    Every living creature whose struggles to survive in the seas were already Herculean, has an even tougher time now, due to human activities.
    We are all part of the problem, and in whatever small way we can help be part of a solution, we should strive to do so.

    Comment by pupsarebest — 10:15 pm September 28, 2013 #

  16. Sc, I would imagine you could contact Seal Sitters directly via their website in regards to a kayak donation.

    Comment by Heather — 11:05 pm September 28, 2013 #

  17. I am not impressed with Alki Observer’s demeanor. “Pseudo-concern and very real righteousness?” Get over yourself.

    Comment by chris — 11:27 pm September 28, 2013 #

  18. The last time I saw a seal on one of the platforms at the Lincoln park area, People were hanging around in boats of various kinds and and pretty close. I counted 5 different groups of people in their boats passing close or even hanging around near by just with in the hour or two I was on the beach that day. If people are hanging around a pup resting and they get too close or stay too long that might be why a pup was abandoned.

    Comment by cj — 1:57 am September 29, 2013 #

  19. Can we at least agree that walking dogs on Seattle beaches is not only illegal but also potentially harmful to both dogs and seals?

    Comment by Allison — 8:06 am September 29, 2013 #

  20. @ Allison I agree with you and would also like to add disgusting to have dogs on the beach, where children are digging in the sand (dog urine) and walking barefoot. Dog owners has this righteous attitude that they can do what ever they want!

    Comment by Silly Goose — 9:27 am September 29, 2013 #

  21. And that’s when the thread went from pro-seal to anti-dog. Dog urine is icky!

    Comment by chris — 11:10 am September 29, 2013 #

  22. And so is people urine if not deposited in the right place.
    .
    All – please, no generalizations … of any kind. There are also considerate, responsible dog owners who use leashes, muzzles, obey laws, etc. (No, in case you wondered, we don’t have a dog. Just one indoor-only cat.) Thanks. – TR

    Comment by WSB — 11:55 am September 29, 2013 #

  23. “Pseudo-concern” and “very real righteousness?” Not a good way to get a message across.

    Comment by Ray West — 4:06 pm September 29, 2013 #

  24. Is it possible to place signs on the floats asking people to stay legal distance of ???? so many feet.
    And stop having so many babies everyone…..do you really need that one more child?

    Comment by Cowpie — 9:16 am September 30, 2013 #

  25. Stop having babies? I don’t even

    Comment by chris — 12:01 pm September 30, 2013 #

  26. Off-topic, but I invite you to discuss it in the WSB Forums. Meantime – the U.S. birth rate has been below the “replacement rate” since 2007.
    .
    http://money.cnn.com/2013/09/06/news/economy/birth-rate-low/index.html

    Comment by WSB — 12:28 pm September 30, 2013 #

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