‘Please respect the perimeter’: Seal Sitters’ plea, for Taffy’s sake

(Seal Sitters photo by Robin Lindsey)

When we first mentioned Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network‘s concerns about a seal pup nicknamed Taffy, who’s been coming and going from a stretch of Alki Beach for two weeks, they described her as healthy. Now, that’s changing, and they are asking you to please keep your distance:

This morning she tried to come ashore, but was scared away repeatedly by people gathering on the sidewalk above her – this, even though they were standing behind the yellow tape – still far too close to the 7- to 8-month-old weaned pup. The pup is terribly sensitive to activity even 50 yards away, much less 20 feet. She gave up after about 5 attempts and we did not see her the remainder of the day and on into this evening. It is imperative that harbor seal pups get stress-free rest out of the water.

Taffy appears to have some kind of trauma to her front foreflippers, though we have not been able to sight any specific wounds. The first few days we observed her, she would not bear weight on her left flipper. Now she will not use either one. This makes her terribly vulnerable on land to people and off-leash dogs.

We have seen a rapid decline over the past week as she has lost weight, is dehydrated, and appears to now have some lung issues, most likely lungworm infestation. While trying to come ashore this morning, we could actually hear her hoarse breathing and cough – not a good sign.

It is unusual for Seal Sitters to leave a tape perimeter in place when there is no seal onshore. However, under this special circumstance, we have been leaving tape intact on the sea wall above small bit of beach she prefers, as well as leaving stakes and tape on the beach when the incoming/outgoing tide permits.

We ask that people please respect the perimeter – even if you can’t see Taffy inside it. Often, she crawls up in between rocks and cannot be seen. Since she is now struggling with health issues, her haulout patterns have changed and we can’t predict when she will try to find rest. If you see her onshore, please don’t gather directly above her on the sea wall. Observe her from either end of the perimeter and please call Seal Sitters’ hotline at 206-905-SEAL (7325) if volunteers are not onsite, as that means we are not aware Taffy is on land at this dangerous location. She needs space.

Seal Sitters First Responders had hopes of capturing the skittish pup today and transporting for evaluation and treatment. Capture will be very challenging because of the location and her hyper-awareness – she stays just a few feet at most from the water’s edge. Sadly, we anticipate her health will rapidly decline.

If you haven’t already noticed the taped-off perimeter in the past two weeks, the area in question is east/north of the main sandy stretch of Alki; if you are walking/running in the area, consider crossing to the inland sidewalk until you’re past where the tape is.

12 Replies to "'Please respect the perimeter': Seal Sitters' plea, for Taffy's sake"

  • flimflam April 8, 2017 (10:33 pm)

    ugh. ask for respect all you want but people will still encroach, still bring their dogs way to close, and maybe even try to pose for a selfie.

  • JanS April 9, 2017 (12:23 am)

    FLIMFLAM…yes, they will; selfish, ignorant  self=centered people  who just don’t give a damn…it’s sad, but not unexpected…we’re not done with “me first” yet…  :(

  • wssz April 9, 2017 (2:54 am)

    Hopefully enough people will read this article and protect her if they see her, along with any other young seals on the beach we happen to come across . Each one of us plays a vitally important role in making sure that we do our part of protect these young seals.

    They are simply looking for a safe place on the sand to rest. Give them wide berth and leave them alone. And please immediately call Seal Sitters so they can arrange for a volunteer to come by to protect them. 

  • SLN April 9, 2017 (7:27 am)

    Happy to hear this new information.  Will do and will share.  Thank you.

  • Delridge Resident April 9, 2017 (8:12 am)

    Thanks for the update, WSB.

    My husband and I were at Alki last weekend and a number of people (and their dogs, both on leash and off) were going down the stairs to the rocks south of a taped perimeter and walking north to the sand. No one bothered to read the signs attached to the tape when they crossed back over it. We called seal sitters and they said they couldn’t really do anything unless Taffy was there. (We didn’t see her but how did we know she wasn’t just out of sight?)

    Is there a reason the tape doesn’t completely block the sidewalk and force people to use the one on the other side of the road? No one should be behind the tape at any time in case she or any other animal is trying to come ashore. Are there any consequences aside from what seems to be a stern reminder and finger wagging?

    • Chemist April 9, 2017 (9:34 am)

      I doubt there are laws preserving/reserving park shore for a seal as most of the laws about approach are authored based on “distance to the marine mammal”.

  • Rose April 9, 2017 (11:38 am)

    Ugh. I also saw a couple walking on the shore IN the perimeter area. So disrespectful! 

  • gxnx April 9, 2017 (12:08 pm)

    Why don’t they put a screen around the seal so no one can see? More privacy.

    The seal needs privacy just like you and I and won’t you find it creepy pathetic for others to take pictures while you are taking a nap? 

    I hate it when I see a group of gawdkers yakking yakking while the seal is just taking a nap

    Move on and leave the seals alone.

  • KP April 9, 2017 (1:29 pm)

    May be resting on private floating dock, directly north of north end of Lincoln park. 

  • Robin/Seal Sitters April 9, 2017 (3:36 pm)
    I would like to thank everyone for their concerns and comments. “Chemist” is correct that we can’t reserve public shoreline for any marine mammal. In this instance, we can only make people aware that a seal pup is using the area and request that they temporarily not enter this small section of Alki Beach – especially since this pup is in declining health and in a vulnerable location where she has experienced harassment. This is to give the animal a reasonable chance to survive.
    Seal Sitters, a partner in NOAAs West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network, always tries establish a perimeter that is adequate for the animal’s safety while minimizing the impact on public passage and access. NOAA recommends 100 yards, but this is not always practical in an urban environment. In situations where an animal is actually hauled out on the beach, it is a violation of federal law to enter the taped off area and disturb the animal. Harassment includes the presence of people or dogs that alters in any way a marine mammal’s behavior, including preventing from coming ashore or scaring back into the water. Violations are reported to the NOAA Office of Law Enforcement for investigation.
  • admiral prince April 10, 2017 (8:59 am)

    what about cats robin?

    • WSB April 10, 2017 (9:20 am)

      Loose cats are a danger to wildlife too. Do you see anyone bring theirs routinely to the beach? Share this info with them too. – TR

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