(File photo courtesy Laura James)
Thanks to “Diver Laura” James, who long has worked on the sea-star die-off mystery as a “citizen scientist,” for the tip on this: New scientific research says a virus is the likely culprit in the deaths of so many of what are commonly known as starfish. The Seattle Times (WSB partner) published a report this afternoon, pointing to the research paper itself (read it here), which concludes, “Based on our observations, the densovirus, SSaDV, is the most likely virus involved in this disease.” However, the researchers note, this isn’t a new virus, so they still don’t have the big picture of what’s happening and what it might lead to.
P.S. It’s been a year since Diver Laura first pointed out die-off evidence on West Seattle shores/in West Seattle waters, and she’s continuing to follow up on what’s happening now.
That short clip by Elizabeth Butler shows the first two coho spawners spotted this fall at the mouth of Fauntleroy Creek south of the ferry dock, back on October 25th. That’s how the volunteer salmon-watchers’ season started; now, after more than a week without sightings, it’s ended. Here’s the wrap-up report from Judy Pickens, including the visitor count as well as the fish count:
Salmon Watch 2014 on Fauntleroy Creek closed Nov. 7, a week after volunteers documented the last of 19 coho spawners to come into the creek.
Eleven volunteers watched for nearly three weeks, recording the first fish on Oct. 25, a day ahead of the annual salmon drumming. They noted spawning behavior at two locations and saw a third pair heading upstream at dusk with enough energy that they may also have left fertilized eggs. Spawning locations will be monitored in late January/early February to see if fry emerge to start feeding in the creek.
In addition to the fish, volunteers welcomed at least 190 visitors to see the action and learn about salmon and the creek habitat.
This fall marked the 20th anniversary of coho spawners in Fauntleroy Creek. Restoration activity happened just in time for a pair of fish to come in at high tide in 1994 and spawn a few yards up the creek. Since then, the number of spawners has fluctuated wildly, from zero some years to the record-smashing 274 recorded in 2012.
Thanks to Judy and to Dennis Hinton for sharing information and photos during the watch (not to mention other times of the year, including spring, when volunteers host schoolchildren at creekside, releasing salmon fry raised by their classes).
Quick note for whale fans: We’ve received a couple reports that the humpback seen in the area recently is in the Lincoln Park vicinity right now.
The Whale Trail’s Orca Talks: Southern Resident Killer Whales’ status next time; protection-zone proposal last timeNovember 5, 2014 at 10:16 pm | In Environment, West Seattle news, Wildlife | 5 Comments
(2012 photo by Rick Rasmussen)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Ten years after they were formally listed as endangered, what do we really know about Puget Sound’s endangered orcas, formally known as the Southern Resident Killer Whales?
One of the focal points of her research is how boat traffic affects the whales. And that was at the heart of The Whale Trail’s first Orca Talk of the season, last Thursday at C & P Coffee Company (WSB sponsor).
During that event, Bruce Stedman of Orca Relief talked about his organization’s proposal of a zone in the San Juans where boats would have to keep a greater distance from whales than they do now. He said it’s not the only action that’s needed to help them – but it’s the one that could make a difference the quickest. Pointedly, he noted that the recovery plan originally envisioned up to 115 Southern Resident Killer Whales by 2015, but that is at this point beyond impossible … that’s three dozen more than the current population, which has had only one birth in the past two years, the calf that is now missing and presumed dead.
— Wade Harper (@Wade_68) November 5, 2014
1:27 PM: Thanks to two tipsters who have mentioned a lone whale – believed to be a humpback – headed northbound, fairly close to West Seattle’s shore. By Me-Kwa-Mooks on Beach Drive, according to the phone call we just received. Let us know if you see it!
4:43 PM: As commenters noted, it traveled into Elliott Bay. Wade tweeted the photo we’ve added above.
THURSDAY MORNING: 7:30 am sighting near Seahurst in Burien, according to the Orca Network FB page.
Here’s the latest proof of that:
That photo is from Scott, who says the coyote was “right in the front yard” at 39th and Graham, 8 am today. *Added – an 8:20 am photo from Jamie, same area*:
Another sighting this morning, via Twitter:
There was a coyote hanging out at Fauntleroy and Raymond this morning @westseattleblog
— Dorcas Bean (@dorcasbean) November 5, 2014
And Robyn saw one “run west up the sidewalk on Rose Street west of 35th” around 5 o’clock Tuesday evening.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU SEE ONE? As the experts advise – do everything you can to scare it away. Yell, wave, throw rocks. That’s what experts urge, to encourage them to keep their distance. And remove every source of food you can (that includes outdoor pet food as well as small pets themselves, although experts say they more often eat small wild animals such as rats).
19 coho so far this week but none yet today, according to Fauntleroy Creek steward Judy Pickens, who is out today along the otherwise-private reach of the creek, talking with visitors, until 3:30 pm.
To get there, walk down the private driveway that’s off Director, off the northeast end of the creek overlook that’s across Fauntleroy Way (and up the embankment) from the ferry dock, and go around the house to find the path down to the creek. Judy was at the second footbridge when we stopped by.
3:47 PM P.S.: If you didn’t make it there today, you have another chance tomorrow, 12:30 pm-3:30 pm. More than a dozen people already had visited by the time we were there; one visitor was visiting Seattle from Boston!
Volunteers at Fauntleroy Creek have now counted 19 coho this week, and since the weather’s cleared up and there’s a chance of more fish, they invite you to come take a look this weekend. From Judy Pickens:
Salmon-watch volunteers on Fauntleroy Creek invite anyone who is interested to come down to the spawning reach on Saturday or Sunday afternoon between 12:30 and 3:30. Seeing coho spawners isn’t guaranteed but this “open creek” will be a chance to learn more about salmon and their habitat. Children are especially encouraged to come. Park on upper Fauntleroy Way SW, above the ferry terminal, and access the reach down the private driveway at 4539 SW Director Place.
Here’s a map.
Two coyote reports this Halloween: Paul tweeted about one in Fauntleroy, at California/Director, and we got a text about a “skinny coyote” near California/98th in Arbor Heights. Other reports in the past week or so include another one in Arbor Heights last Sunday, in which a coyote was interrupted while killing a cat (39th/100th); Upper Morgan (38th/Morgan); Puget Ridge (18th/Myrtle). If you’re new or haven’t seen these reports before, over the past six years we have received reader-reported sightings just about everywhere in West Seattle. This information from the state Department of Fish and Wildlife explains what to do if you see one (short answer – scare it away). Our previous coyote reports are archived here.
Thanks to Guy and Joy Smith for another unusual Alki Point sighting – a brown pelican. They report it “rested on the water just north of Alki Point (Wednesday) before it headed south around the point.” Though the photo is from a distance, it’s clear from the pelican’s coloring that it’s a mature brown pelican – the ones that are truly “brown” are juveniles, like this one that hung around West Seattle for a while in early 2013. They are more common the further south you go, but generally keep to the seacoast and aren’t often seen on inland waterways like ours.
The salmon homecoming continues! Above, another coho from Fauntleroy Creek; on Monday afternoon, Dennis Hinton reported, he and Judy Pickens “saw four new coho come through the culvert and shoot up the creek. Three were females, 4-5-pounds. One was a red-sided male, about 7 or 8 pounds. The big male did something I’ve never seen before in all my years of watching at Fauntleroy Creek. It leaped entirely out of the water over weir #6, into the next pool. Spectacular sight. Just like you’ve seen in the movies.” The photo above shows that red-sided male, one of nine counted in the creek as of last night (if we get an update for today, we’ll add it). Find out more about Fauntleroy Creek here. (**ADDED 8:58 PM** As Dennis notes in comments, 4 more today – 13 total in 3 days.)
(back to original report) And we’ve heard a couple reports of salmon back in Longfellow Creek, too – John sent a photo:
He “counted at least five around and under the salmon bone bridge” during a visit on Monday morning. You can find out more about Longfellow Creek (and its Legacy Trail) on this city webpage.
(Seen at the Fauntleroy Creek overlook late today)
4:53 PM: One dayhttp://westseattleblog.com/ after Judy Pickens sent a reminder of tomorrow’s drumming-the-salmon-home event, with a promise that she’d let us know as soon as there was a Fauntleroy Creek coho sighting, she has an update: “Elizabeth Butler and Chris Kim win the prize for spotting the season’s first spawners near the beach. All this rain, plus 11-foot tides, have brought them in ahead of tomorrow evening’s drumming!”
If you are on the volunteer salmon-watch roster, that means it’s time to sign up for specific shifts. Otherwise, they should be in view soon from the overlook at Fauntleroy and Director (map), across the street from the ferry dock (and up the embankment), where the drumming/singing is set for 5 pm Sunday.
6:32 PM: We stopped by the overlook before dark. It’s not a good viewing spot – lots of overgrowth – but when watchers are on duty, you can walk to the creek from Director St. just east of there. Judy was just there with Dennis Hinton and says that while coho #1 was eaten by a river otter, #2 and #3 were spotted under a bridge on the creek. She adds, “I’ll be spending most of my afternoon tomorrow down at the creek for any folk who wish to visit.”
11:57 PM: Dennis sent photos! Added the one you see above.
(WSB photo from last year’s Fauntleroy Creek gathering to call the salmon home)
Last year, they were a no-show; the year before, a record run. What will this year bring for coho salmon in Fauntleroy Creek? Steward Judy Pickens says would-be salmon spectators are already showing up at the creek but should know, no one’s seen any yet, and the official volunteer-powered salmon watch won’t start until Monday. Once they see one, she’ll share the news with us, and you’ll be welcome to come down and try to get a glimpse any time a salmon-watcher is on duty. Meantime, the symbolic start to the season is this Sunday, 5 pm, when you are invited to join in the annual “calling the salmon home” gathering at the Fauntleroy fish ladder (Fauntleroy/Director, across the street from the ferry dock, up the embankment) – bring something to drum with if you can, but not mandatory.
Late in the day, orcas were back in the area, first time since last Friday’s throng, heading south – thanks to @sudsymaggie for tweeting the report! – so if you’re by the water tomorrow, keep watch, and please let us know (text/call 206-293-6302) if you see them. Even though weather made the viewing tougher, orca lovers were somewhat balmed, after the sadness of last night’s report that the Southern Resident Killer Whales’ first baby in two years is missing and presumed dead.
Unlike most of their counterparts, the southern residents subsist on fish, and they are here looking for chum salmon; as of last weekend, the run didn’t yet appear to be plentiful – Guy Smith on Alki Point sent a photo of a purse seiner that he said didn’t seem to be hauling much in on Sunday night (though apparently it did net some fish before departing Monday morning).
Also regarding the chum, our friends at the Kitsap Sun have published this update about how things are looking across the water.
WEDNESDAY MORNING: A sighting was reported from the Bainbridge ferry just after 7 am, by a commenter on the Orca Network FB page, a few orcas headed toward the southwest. Weather’s awfully murky today but conditions can change quickly, so …
(Photo by Carrie Sapp)
After the Southern Resident Killer Whales came through last Friday, the experts noticed someone missing in other regional sightings – baby L120, first calf born to the local orcas in two years. No one wanted to announce her death until word came from orca experts – and now it has, shared in a news release via Orca Network:
The Center for Whale Research has confirmed that baby L120, only about seven weeks old and the third known offspring of a 23-year old Southern Resident orca known as L86, was not with his or her mother when she and other members of L pod were photographed recently in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Ken Balcomb of the Center for Whale Research said, “L86 was seen and photographed on Friday, Saturday, and Monday, all without L120.”
L120 was the first newborn Southern Resident offspring seen since August 2012. In February of that year the the body of L86′s second offspring, 3-year old female L112, washed up at Long Beach Wash. with indications of death by severe acoustic trauma.
Research conducted in recent years has shown that Southern Resident orcas depend almost entirely on chinook salmon for sustenance, with a diet of chum salmon during fall months when chinook are especially scarce.
This orca clan has suffered episodic food deficiency for many decades, as chinook salmon runs were depleted by habitat destruction, excessive harvest and dams from Alaska to California. They were also routinely shot at for decades and over 50 were captured or killed for theme parks during the 1960s and 70s, followed by wanton disposal of persistent toxins into Puget Sound that continue to impair fetal development and immune responses, especially when the whales can’t find sufficient food.
“We haven’t treated these magnificent orcas well at all. As a society we are not successfully restoring this orca community despite the many warnings and legal declarations. Our challenge is clear: bountiful salmon runs must be restored and protected or we won’t see Resident orcas in the Salish Sea in coming years.” said Howard Garrett of Orca Network.
The loss of her second baby must be especially traumatic for L86, but knowing this young orca will never grow up and reproduce is painful for all who care about this precariously dwindling extended family. Now down to only 78 members, the Southern Resident community is at or below their numbers in 2001 when alarms rang with such intensity that they were eventually listed as endangered under the ESA in 2005.
(Starting at :15 in, you’ll see some whales – sorry for the shakiness, very long zoom!)
8:59 AM: If you’re anywhere near the water today, keep watch for orcas! Just before nightfall Thursday, the Orca Network had southbound sightings in the north Sound – first sightings that far south in quite a while. Then this morning around 7:30 am, according to West Seattleite Jeff Hogan from Killer Whale Tales, sightings were reported off Vashon Island – still southbound, but at some point, they will have to head back this way, so we’re sharing the alert. If you see whales, please let us know (text/voice 206-293-6302 is our breaking-news hotline, and this qualifies); we’ll update with any reports.
9:40 AM: Still southbound, south of us, per this ON commenter – off Point Robinson on Maury Island (across Puget Sound from Des Moines) about 20 minutes ago.
10:44 AM: Now at least some of the whales are reported to have turned and headed northbound.
12:14 PM: Jeff just texted to say that whales believed to be from all three resident pods are “trending northbound” past Three Tree Point south of West Seattle.
(Added: Photo by Greg Snyder)
1:28 PM: In view! Passing Blake Island.
1:58 PM: The research boat is visible off Blake Island – binoculars definitely needed – if you are near Me-Kwa-Mooks on Beach Drive as we are now. Some whales are ahead of it, some behind.
5:38 PM: Continuing to add visuals from today’s sightings as we get them. Above and (added) below, photos by Gary Jones, as the orcas passed Alki Lighthouse.
Here’s word of the first presentation in a new series of Orca Talks presented by West Seattle-headquartered The Whale Trail: You’ll hear about the proposal for “A Protected Zone for Puget Sound Orcas,” 7 pm Thursday, October 30th at C & P Coffee Company (WSB sponsor). From TWT executive director Donna Sandstrom:
The Southern Resident Killer Whales are endangered and seriously declining; their 2014 population of 79 is the lowest since 1985. To aid their recovery, Orca Relief is urging NOAA Fisheries to conduct a public process that will result in a Whale Protection Zone for the SRKWs.
A well designed and enforced WPZ would provide the Southern Resident Orca a safe-haven in the very core of their critical habitat, and a relief from vessel impacts including noise, disturbance and air pollution. Bruce Stedman, Executive Director of Orca Relief, will describe the key aspects of how a protected area for the Orca should be developed and how it could help the SRKWs begin to recover.
These talks are usually sellouts – get your ticket(s) ASAP online, $5 suggested donation, kids free. C & P is at 5612 California SW.
(Added Thursday afternoon: Coyote seen by Rebecca on SW Barton)
Maybe it’s the change of seasons. The pace of coyote-sighting reports has picked up recently. We report them for awareness and education, not hysteria – here are the most-recent reports:
TWO HIGHLAND PARK SIGHTINGS: Moments ago, someone texted about a coyote spotted today at 18th and Cloverdale. That’s the second recent report we’ve had from Highland Park; Nicole reported one seen near 14th and Trenton “with a cat carcass.”
GATEWOOD SIGHTING #1: Janet says one “walked right by me as I was doing yard work” around 4:45 pm Tuesday near California/Webster. “Did not seem afraid of me. Appeared straggly and hungry.” It was headed east and she thinks it might have come up the stairs at 44th/Webster (not far from Solstice Park).
GATEWOOD SIGHTING #2: A few hours before that, to the northeast, Elizabeth encountered one while working, similar description: “I am a FedEx driver and just followed one down the street near 38th Ave SW & Myrtle. It was extremely mangy looking and emaciated, which could be of concern. Still a rather large one though. I saw it run up a tree filled driveway toward a house (in the 4100 block of) SW Orchard. Just a heads-up!”
NEAR CAMP LONG: TH spotted a coyote around 8 pm Sunday, about to cross 36th SW at Brandon: “Probably heading towards Camp Long. He looked healthy and while he was cautious he didn’t appear afraid. I figure he was 2′ at the shoulder.”
ARBOR HEIGHTS: Wendy reported her mother-in-law spotting two coyotes hanging out at a vacant lot near 39th/105th.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU SEE ONE? Our recent texter in HP said she had called Fish and Wildlife, which advised they don’t routinely respond to sightings. That’s true and has long been so. They do have an excellent guide about coexisting with coyotes, with advice such as how to scare them away if you see them, so that they will be encouraged to keep their distance, for our sake and theirs. We link it from every coyote report we publish – so here it is again.
Last time we featured undersea video from “Diver Laura” James – observing a curious octopus – we heard clamors for more. Laura has obliged, inviting us to share the clip you see above, which she titled “Beneath a Dark Sea.” Yes, these are local waters – Cove 2, right off Seacrest.
Thank you, as always, to “Diver Laura” James for sharing another view of what you won’t see unless you’re a diver too. From her dive last night off Seacrest, an unedited stretch of octopus-watching:
Along with the link, Laura wrote: “We spent almost 10 minutes with this amazing beautiful creature before we had to leave because of depth, time and air constraints (though I would have happily spent all night). It turns out my buddy swam right over the well-camouflaged octopus and was checking out the den of another octopus looking to see if there were any eggs (none to be found so far). You can see me signal him by bobbing my lights. The octopus gets curious and decides it wants to come check me out (I’m actually swimming backwards in some of the video) until my dive buddy comes over and then it decides to do something even more entertaining. Upon noticing my dive buddy, it ceases advancing on me and for lack of a better descriptive, turns around and starts sneaking up on my buddy. You can actually see it hunkering down and hiding behind the log, then it squeezes under the log and boo! Octopus! It does not appear upset in any of the interactions, more curious and checking things out. It does get upset later on when it tries to invade the den of a second octopus and gets into a bit of a wrestling match.” P.S. Interesting Giant Pacific Octopus info and trivia here.
P.S. On a much-smaller scale – remember Laura’s iPhone-microscope plankton-watching? She has agreed to join us in the WSB booth at the West Seattle Junction Harvest Festival four weeks from today, so you can bring your kid(s) by to have a look at the tiny creatures that fill our seas. The Harvest Festival is set for 10 am-2 pm Sunday, October 26th.
ADDED 3:42 PM: Laura just sent an edited video with a “potpourri of critters” from the dive, so we’re adding it:
Two coyote sightings to share today, first ones we’ve received in a while. As we’ve done more than 150 times in the past six years, when we get them, we publish them, not as cause for panic, but in the spirit of information/education, since not everyone realizes that we share our city with them. Patricia:
Coyote sighting this morning in Arbor Heights… about 6:30 am as I was walking two spaniels north on 39th Ave SW, a coyote was spotted sitting at the edge of the yard of the demolished-for-new-construction home between SW 106th and SW 104th. Pretty big – taller than my larger dog, though not so heavy. He moved into the street and sat down, watching us. We got to within 50 feet… close enough for me so I stamped twice. He turned north then west on SW 104th. Pretty neat!
And a quick report from Cynthia on Friday evening:
Coyote spotted on Trenton and 14th Ave SW.
The reports we’ve received over the years (archived here, newest to oldest) also tend to debunk myths such as, they only come out at night, or, they only live near greenbelts. So, what to do if you see one? Most important advice: Scare it away. That and other advice from state wildlife authorities is here.
(File photo, courtesy Laura James)
New hope that the mystery killer ravaging the sea-star population might be identified and stopped: “Diver Laura” James – whose sea-star monitoring project was just featured nationally again, in this MSNBC story – sent this announcement from South Sound U.S. Rep. Denny Heck:
To address the sea star wasting syndrome and other major marine disease emergencies, this week Representative Denny Heck (WA-10) and the Puget Sound Recovery Caucus introduced the Marine Disease Emergency Act. The proposed legislation would establish a framework for declaring and responding to a marine disease emergency, and to provide the science community with the resources to proactively protect marine ecosystems from being irreparably damaged by cascading epidemics.
The Marine Disease Emergency Act establishes a declaration process for the Secretary of Commerce, acting through the Administrator of NOAA, to declare a marine disease emergency. The proposed bill outlines the factors needed for a 120-day rapid response plan, including the necessary engagement of individuals and entities at federal, regional, state and local levels to assist in a coordinated and effective response aimed at minimizing the impacts and preventing further transmission. The legislation also requires a post-emergency report detailing current disease status and providing recommendations for improving responses to future marine disease emergencies.
The Marine Disease Emergency Act establishes a national data repository to facilitate research and link different datasets from across the country, as well as a “Marine Disease Emergency Fund” under Treasury in order to accept donations from the public and the industry.
“Sea stars do not function underwater in a vacuum,” said Representative Denny Heck, who represents the South Puget Sound area. “They are in fact a keystone species vital to the ecosystem. When these species face an epidemic, we must engage the scientific community in an organized, rapid-response approach to determine what can be done to halt the damage to our oceans. This could be a sign of a deeper problem.”
Professor Drew Harvell of Cornell University, who studies the ecology and evolution of coral resistance to disease, expressed support for the new policy, saying “Disease outbreaks of marine organisms are predicted to increase with warming oceans and so it’s very welcome to see legislation like the Marine Disease Emergency Act introduced.”
“When you pierce the surface of our picturesque water vistas, what’s underneath is not OK. We have sea stars that are wasting away, pulling themselves apart and limbs disappearing from their bodies. That is not OK. And it’s only getting worse,” said Sheida Sahandy, executive director of the Puget Sound Partnership. “We need the ability to respond to these kinds of emergencies as quickly as we would an earthquake or a hurricane. This action creates the support for the kind of nimble response that is required in order to react to fast-acting threats to our ecosystem.”
Representatives Heck and Kilmer co-founded the Congressional Puget Sound Caucus last year to reflect their commitment to preserving the Puget Sound. The caucus is the only Congressional working group devoted exclusively to promoting Puget Sound cleanup efforts, and builds on the legacy left by former Congressman Norm Dicks, a longtime advocate for the health of the Puget Sound. The caucus continues to be focused on promoting the three region-wide Puget Sound recovery priorities: preventing pollution from urban stormwater runoff, protecting and restoring habitat, and restoring and re-opening shellfish beds.
The question now – will the bill pass and become law? Laura is working on gathering grass-roots support, and we’ll update with ways for you to voice your opinion, if you are interested.
The 2015 West Seattle wildlife-photo calendar featuring images by Mark Wangerin - a frequent WSB contributor (thank you!) – is now available. It’s been about four months since we shared the news that this 12″ x 12″ calendar was in the works, as a fundraiser for environmental programs at Chief Sealth International High School, where Mark taught from 2002 to 2012. Now the calendar is on sale at local stores including J.F. Henry, Merryweather Books, and Curious Kidstuff (WSB sponsor) in The Junction, and West Seattle Thriftway (WSB sponsor) in Morgan Junction. According to Mark House Publishing, if you’re interested in a bulk order of the $14.99 calendar, that “can be personalized with logos and/or contact information for no additional charge” (markhousepublishing.com or 206-660-6982).
(L-pod orcas – file photo, shared here in 2009 by Jeff Hogan of Killer Whale Tales)
Just a week ago, the Kitsap Sun reported that Puget Sound’s orcas, the Southern Resident Killer Whales, were down to their lowest population level in almost 30 years, after two deaths this year, and no new births in two years. Tonight, some good news: The Center for Whale Research, which had reported the population down to 78, says it’s up to 79, with a new baby spotted in L Pod, same pod that had the last SRKW birth in 2012. In a Facebook post, CWR says the baby, to be known as L120, was with L86. You can see a photo on Orca Network‘s FB page.
(Photo by David Hutchinson)
Banners are up along Alki to ensure you know that, as Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network‘s Robin Lindsey reminds us, “We are now in the throes of harbor seal pupping season.” And with that, Robin shares four updates/reminders, including the banners’ installation, but beginning with the loss of a pup last weekend:
****Area rookeries are bustling with seal pups, a good majority of them now weaned. These pups are striking out on their own and Seal Sitters has responded to 5 pups in the past week in 5 different locations here in West Seattle.
(Photo by Robin Lindsey)
As usual, the pups have been thin. Sadly, seal pup “H2Otis” (above), who spent Saturday evening and Sunday morning at Emma Schmitz Viewpoint, had to be taken to PAWS Wildlife Center but died en route. The pup had multiple bite wounds to the head and flippers, but the species of animal that inflicted the bites could not be determined in the necropsy. The wounds were not the cause of death. He was much thinner than we realized due to difficulty of a visual assessment.
We cannot stress enough that each year, seal pups are mauled and killed by off-leash dogs in Puget Sound. Off-leash dogs were on the beach just before “H2Otis” came ashore (we do not believe he was bitten at Emma Schmitz on Saturday night) and have been there each day since. We ask dog owners to please respect wildlife and understand that even the most well-behaved dog can be unpredictable and cause terrible harm.
****Seal Sitters MMSN, as a member in good standing of NOAA’s West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network, has just renewed our contract with NOAA to respond to live and dead marine mammals from Brace Point through the Duwamish River (including Harbor Island). This contract gives us the authority to close off public access and establish necessary perimeters to protect both marine mammals and the public at large. All marine mammals are protected from harassment by the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Violations will be documented and reported to NOAA’s Office for Law Enforcement (OLE) and WA Department of Fish and Wildlife Enforcement for prosecution.
We would like to note as well that boarders, kayakers and boaters need to stay an appropriate distance (100 yards) from the mid-channel Elliott Bay buoys when sea lions are present. In addition to the California sea lions that are now returning to the area, these haul-out sites are occasionally used by Steller sea lions, both protected by the MMPA. Violations are being documented and turned over to NOAA’s OLE.
Included as a requirement of this contract is to examine dead marine mammals and enter documentation into NOAA’s national database. We ask residents to please call Seal Sitters’ hotline @ 206-905-SEAL (7325) if there is a live or dead marine mammal on public or private beaches.
****Thursday, Seattle Parks employees hung 10 “Share the Shore” banners (top photo), featuring an illustration of a harbor-seal pup, along Alki Beach. The banners are displayed annually on light poles stretching from the Bathhouse to Duke’s Chowder House. The graphics are intended to raise awareness that September and October are the high season months for harbor seal pups to seek refuge on our shores. Read more here.
****Lastly, our usual reminder that if you see a harbor seal on the beach, stay back, keep people and dogs away and call our hotline at 206-905-SEAL (7325). Undisrupted rest is critical to a seal pup’s survival – and, as proven by the unexpected demise of “H2Otis,” it is a fragile existence at best.
An advocate of freedom for captive orcas is on a journey from San Diego to Canada, stopping on Alki tomorrow evening with a historic display: Part of the “Corky Freedom Banner” that was displayed on Alki 14 years ago. We’ve just heard about this from Terri, who is organizing the event with Christine Caruso, the Seattle teacher who is on the West Coast journey. “Corky,” Terri explains, is an orca who has been captive longer than any other at SeaWorld San Diego, captured in British Columbia 45 years ago. In 1999, children around the world made pieces comprising a mile-long banner urging freedom for Corky; it was shown at various stops along a bus tour, including Alki, in 2000, as reported by The Seattle Times (WSB partner). Christine is traveling with pieces of that original banner; you can see them and talk with her 6:30-8 pm Friday at the west-end picnic area of Alki Beach.
It’s a wild place we live in … three reader reports to share:
WHALE WATCHING: Heard about the humpbacks in the area this past week or so? Colleen saw one and shared the photo:
A little late since this was Saturday night…..While boating with friends from West Seattle to Bainbridge Saturday evening around 5:15, we spotted a whale … We were so excited, our pictures are not that good. … It was awesome and unbelievable to be so close (our friends turned off their Bayliner’s engine as we watched the whale).
COYOTE REPORT: From Paul in North Admiral:
Just thought I’d pass on news of a coyote sighting in front of my house (Monday) morning on 42nd Ave between Seattle and Atlantic Streets in North Admiral. 4:30 am, I was leaving to go fishing, and a neighbor was walking his dog. We all must have come upon the coyote at the same time, and it took off running. Healthy looking adult. I’ve seen one here before, but it’s been several years.
RACCOONS: From Sean in Gatewood:
Spotted this mom and four youngsters at 8:30 (Monday) morning in my backyard. Very cute, but I’d prefer they dig holes elsewhere.
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