West Seattle, Washington
Back on Sunday, a text resulted in this report about a dead seal south of Alki Point. Commenter Jenny mentioned there was another carcass nearby. Tonight, we have an update from David Hutchinson of Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network:
Thanks to those of you who have reported these two dead marine mammals to Seal Sitters’ Hotline (206-905-7325). As of the evening of 11/21, the California Sea Lion is at the north end of Constellation Park and the adult Harbor seal is at the south end of the park. Seattle Parks has been notified of their current location. Seal Sitters has been tracking the position of both dead animals since first reported back on November 16th when one was onshore at Cormorant Cove and the other on private property to the north.
When Seal Sitters responds to dead marine mammals, the animal is photographed, measured and examined. An official report is then completed and entered into NOAA’s online marine mammal database. If the location is on a public beach, we typically bag the smaller animals, remove them from the beach and contact Seattle Parks for disposal, unless the animal will be transferred for necropsy by WA Department of Fish and Wildlife. In certain situations if a necropsy is performed, Seal Sitters pays for blood and tissue lab tests on the animal.
In this case, both animals are too large to be easily removed from the public beach – the sea lion is over 7 feet in length. Disposal of animals on private beaches is the responsibility of the property owner. Thankfully, the ebb and flow of tides will most often return carcasses back to the sea, to nourish other marine life. For smaller animals not suitable for necropsy due to decomposition, that is the ideal end result as well.
Got a text a little while ago about a dead seal on the Beach Drive shore, toward the south end of Constellation Park. First thing to do if you see a marine mammal on the shore, dead or alive, is call Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network – 206-905-SEAL – which the texter had done, but due to cell-signal breakup, wasn’t sure the message had gotten through. We e-mailed Seal Sitters, which confirms the seal’s carcass has been washing up and then back out again for a few days in the Constellation Park/Cormorant Cove Park area. Since it’s on public property, it’s also been reported to Seattle Parks – too large and heavy for a simple removal.
By Judy Pickens
Special to West Seattle Blog
Spawning season on Fauntleroy Creek closed on Friday with a total of seven coho spotted by salmon watchers.
The season began several days earlier than in years past, near dusk on October 20. Five vigorous fish entered the spawning reach across Fauntleroy Way SW from the ferry terminal, but darkness fell before any redd-building or spawning could be observed.
No more arrived until a single male on November 5 and another single male the following day. The 50 area residents who took advantage of four hours of “open creek” that afternoon with salmon watchers got to see “Wally” lazing in the fish ladder.
Watchers gave him a name because he defied the spawn-and-die-within-24-hours pattern that has been the norm. A week after entering the creek, he still had the energy to make a run up the fish ladder and was visibly deteriorating when last seen last Monday (November 14).
“Seven spawners isn’t a lot but it’s seven more than last year,” noted veteran watcher Dennis Hinton, “and during our watch, nearly 70 people got to see these amazing fish close to home.”
The season’s robust return of coho to Puget Sound defied the state’s warning that not enough eggs would be available for this school year’s Salmon in the Schools program. Most of the 71 participating schools in Seattle rear coho – and will start doing so again in January. Thanks to the return, the Fauntleroy Watershed Council was able to freeze carcasses from the Soos Creek Hatchery so that many fourth- and fifth-graders in West Seattle can have a captivating lesson in biological systems during classroom dissections this winter.
Thanks to Jake for the report: “I spotted a coyote this morning at 35th and Hinds [map] around 7:30 am. It jumped into a bush before I could get a pic. It appeared to be in good health and didn’t seem to be in a big hurry or especially skittish. It looked to weigh about 45 lbs.”
For more than eight years now, we’ve published coyote-sighting reports when we get them as a reminder that they live among us – (especially with new people arriving, not everyone knows that!). This one-sheet from the state Department of Fish and Wildlife has info on what to do if you see one (in short: scare it away) and how else to foster coexistence.
The photo and report are from Alex:
Maybe not news but first time I’ve seen them, two jostling for space just upstream of fishbone bridge if you walk into the woods a little, just now!
Woo hoo, said our toddler!
The bridge is a bit north of Dragonfly Pavilion.
8:41 AM: Thanks for the tips – orcas are reported to be in the area again today. The person who called said they’re closer to the Vashon/Blake side, across from Fauntleroy; Jason points us to an Orca Network sighting thread with reports that they’re spread out and not necessarily heading in one direction. So if you’re on-peninsula and interested, take your binoculars over to the west-facing shore and have a look! (They were seen Sunday morning in Elliott Bay, as reported here, but the weather was a little murky for optimal viewing.)
9:06 AM: Thanks to Donna Sandstrom from The Whale Trail for this update – it’s a large group and they’re heading north, visible from the Alki area currently.
9:24 AM: Just got a report that a ferry going between Bremerton and Seattle has stopped so the orcas can pass!
9:36 AM: Just added (the top) photo from Gary Jones in the Alki Point area. Meantime, our texter says the ferry is moving again. (206-293-6302 any time, text or voice, that’s our breaking-news hotline, and whale sightings are always news!)
11:31 AM: Gary sent more photos that we’ve added to this story, including one showing the Bremerton ferry riders (aboard M/V Walla Walla) whale-watching as mentioned.
8 AM: The weather’s a little murky but if you’re near the water – keep watch for whales. Todd reports a northbound sighting just now, Alki area, headed toward Magnolia.
8:03 AM: Just after posting that, we got a text with another report and more details:
7:30 am-7:50 am, orcas seen between the west end of Alki Beach promenade and Alki Point. Adult and adolescent, possibly one more. Initially 50-100 yards from shore, gradually moving away from shore toward Magnolia, then diagonally toward Pier 91/Queen Anne.Exhibited what I would describe as feeding behavior – circling and roiling the water.
1:08 PM: Thanks to Jackie for that new photo of “Westley,” the West Seattle deer, who resurfaced today. Last sighting we heard about was on Election Night toward the west end of Alki Beach Park. So far this morning, the reports are from south Beach Drive and Lincoln Park. It’s now been a week and a half since “Westley” turned up in West Seattle (on Pigeon Point), and if you’ve missed our previous coverage (scroll through the WSB Wildlife archive), please note that wildlife/animal-welfare authorities ask you to keep your distance – getting too close could scare him, and also could put you into danger, as deer can lash out powerfully if they feel they are in danger. If you wonder “why doesn’t someone capture and relocate him?” Seattle Animal Shelter and the state Department of Fish and Wildlife both say that would be more of a threat to him than letting him be. So please, for as long as he’s in this area, please be extra careful – he’s crossed many streets – just in case he crosses your path.
1:33 PM: Thanks to Lezlie Jane for forwarding this photo by Jonny Layefsky:
Lezlie says it was taken on Beach Drive around 11:30 am.
We’ve just received the first West Seattle deer-sighting report since Saturday – Marsha e-mailed to say it was an “incredible sight” to spot the deer on Wickstrom Place SW in the Alki area this morning.
Nine days after first word of the deer (nicknamed “Westley” by WSB commenters) surfacing in West Seattle, we know at least one other person has seen him today – while we haven’t heard from them directly, we know about the sighting because of a call from Tracy Bahrakis, acting field-services manager for the Seattle Animal Shelter. She mentioned a report this morning and wanted us to let you know that while SAS is continuing to talk with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, the animal authorities continue to contend that unless the deer is badly injured or in distress, trying to capture it would do more harm than good – so please just let it be.
If you’ve missed our previous coverage, this is the first deer spotted in West Seattle in years. First word came in a photo tweeted by Peter, October 30th on Pigeon Point; the next day, it was seen to the west, near West Seattle Health Club; the day after that, we learned it also had wandered onto the spawling site of Nucor, which reported it to WDFW but was told to leave it alone. On Friday, a series of sightings and photos showed it on the move from Fairmount to Beach Drive. On Saturday, it was seen in North Admiral.
Bahrakis says the person who called her this morning from West Seattle was concerned that the deer seemed to be limping; this has been an on-and-off description over the past week, but she says “they hurt their legs all the time” and do best healing on their own. (Reader video clips we’ve published show it quite mobile and running quite ably.) Bahrakis says that a past deer-relocation attempt – by shooting it with a tranquilizing dart, capturing, and moving it – left it dead the next day from stress.
So she says their request remains: Leave it alone. Keep your distance. Don’t put out food for it or otherwise entice it to stay. Just let it be. And if you still have questions or concerns, she said, WDFW invites you to talk with them directly – the main number is 360-902-2200.
3:11 PM: Thanks to Aaron for the texted tip – whale sighting, northbound, between Blake Island and Alki Point, likely a humpback.
Six days after the annual Fauntleroy Creek gathering to call the salmon home, another has shown up. And you’re invited to the creek Sunday afternoon. From Judy Pickens:
Patience rewarded long-time Fauntleroy Creek volunteer Dennis Hinton with another coho spawner more than two weeks after he spotted the first five. No. 6 entered the creek Saturday afternoon and moved upstream toward 45th Ave. SW.
On the chance that rain, ideal creek conditions, and high tides will bring more in, volunteers will be at the creek between noon and 4:00 Sunday afternoon if area residents want to try their luck. Come to the fish-ladder viewpoint (SW Director & upper Fauntleroy Way SW) and a volunteer will invite you down.
Find out more about Fauntleroy Creek here.
After making it from Fairmount to Beach Drive on Friday, Westley the West Seattle Deer headed north today. The video above, courtesy of Owen, is from 46th/Massachusetts in North Admiral; that came in after the photo below from 53rd and Andover:
Recapping our previous coverage – the deer first turned up on Pigeon Point last Sunday night, then headed west into North Delridge on Monday, where it was seen on Nucor property and to the south by Dragonfly Pavilion, near Longfellow Creek. Then on Friday we got word of numerous sightings, some with photos, as reported here.
Unless it is injured or in some other kind of distress, Seattle Animal Shelter says, it is best left alone; a Nucor manager told us he had tried to talk the state Fish and Wildlife Department into coming for it, but they said basically the same thing. Deer are seldom seen in Seattle, and some think this might be the same one seen earlier this fall in Union Bay and then in the Beacon Hill area.
10:12 AM: The West Seattle Deer – apparently also formerly the Union Bay and Beacon Hill deer – has resurfaced, and it’s on the move. Last sighting reports were on Monday near the north end of Longfellow Creek (here’s our Tuesday followup), and now we’re getting reports and photos from the Fairmount area. The photo above is from Robert Seely near 36th and Dawson; we also got calls about Fauntleroy and Hudson; and Neal Brandt sent this photo from California and Hudson:
(added) Michael Lockman from WEdesign (WSB sponsor), whose truck is in the photo above from the Rite-Aid parking lot, sent a photo too:
(added) Here’s a short video clip sent by Christine after seeing it near 36th/Brandon:
— West Seattle Blog (@westseattleblog) November 4, 2016
PLEASE be careful if you are going to be on the road. As for what to do if you see it – Seattle Animal Shelter deals with injured wildlife but if it’s not in distress, acting director Ann Graves told us Tuesday, it could be more traumatizing to the deer to try to capture it, than to let it be. The first reported West Seattle sighting was Monday on Pigeon Point; while deer are abundant elsewhere, even right across the Sound on Vashon Island, sightings in Seattle city limits are rare.
10:53 AM: The deer is continuing to make tracks west. Commenter Cinemama saw it at 44th/Juneau; Sue Lindblom of Illusions Hair Design (WSB sponsor) e-mailed us to report seeing it at 48th/Juneau.
11:25 AM: Now the deer is heading south – caller to our 24/7 hotline (206-293-6302) has a backyard sighting near 49th and Raymond.
2:15 PM: A few more sightings – Seaview at 11:45 am (added below: photo from Angela, 50th & Graham):
And more recently, 5200 block of Beach Drive, then up into the greenbelt, per a caller.
2:58 PM: That photo is from Vanessa – Beach Drive “south of La Rustica.”
The photo is just in from John, who says, “Although it is hard to see them in the murky water, the salmon have returned to Longfellow Creek! Just thought you should share the good news.”
John reports seeing them under the fishbone bridge, which is near Dragonfly Pavilion. This gives us another chance to remind you that you are invited to meet Puget Soundkeeper volunteers there on Saturday and join them for a creekside walk in search of salmon, dead or alive – details here.
Today’s development in the saga of the deer that appeared on Pigeon Point two nights ago and made its way west to North Delridge yesterday: Despite one commenter’s report that it had been picked up “by animal control,” it’s apparently still out there somewhere.
We published an update after M told us about a sighting outside the West Seattle Health Club yesterday afternoon, and that it seemed to be limping. By the time we got there to look, it was nowhere in sight.
Then commenter Mark47n said it had wandered onto the Nucor property – immediately north of the gym – and “through our scrap yard before being corralled and collected by animal control.” The comment came in too late for us to call the Seattle Animal Shelter last night, but we talked with acting SAS director Ann Graves this morning. She said it wasn’t her agency – our call was the first they had heard about a deer in West Seattle. She confirmed that if it was injured (or worse), SAS could be called for pickup. But if not, she warned, “putting it through the stress of a capture” could be worse than letting it be.
Our next call was to Nucor, to try to verify that they had seen the deer and find out what happened. We were pointed to safety director Oliver Lyles, who confirmed that the deer had turned up on their 50-acre site yesterday. He said they called the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, and though he spent 20 minutes on the phone trying to convince them to come get it, they told him that it should be left alone. So that’s what happened, and it eventually left the property. He thinks that was probably before the mid-afternoon sighting by the gym. It did indeed have a limp, he said, but it also seemed to be moving quite adeptly and quickly.
The photo above, tweeted at us overnight, was taken by the Dragonfly Pavilion along Longfellow Creek, south of the gym. We’re still waiting to hear back from tweeter Dja regarding what time it was taken.
Have you seen it? Let us know. And do please call Seattle Animal Shelter IF it seems to be injured or in distress – 206-386-7387.
In case you missed the story last night: A deer has found its way to West Seattle. And it’s been spotted again today, so we’re publishing this update. Last night, Peter tweeted a photo from 21st/Andover on Pigeon Point. Apparently the deer moved directly west/downhill, and has been seen this afternoon by the West Seattle Health Club at 28th/Andover. M, who reported that sighting, says it appears to be injured/limping, but has lost sight of it. If it is injured, the Seattle Animal Shelter should be notified, if it hasn’t been already – 206-386-7387. Deer are rarely seen in Seattle city limits, but commenter Scott pointed out last night that this could be the same deer first seen in the Union Bay area, and more recently in Beacon Hill, directly east of us.
That photo was tweeted at us earlier this evening by Peter, who says he spotted the deer on Pigeon Point. Though we have published many wildlife sightings over the years, none of them involved deer, aside from this WSB Forums post from someone wondering earlier this year if there were any around. They are not uncommon around Western Washington overall, though, according to this state Department of Fish and Wildlife one-sheet.
ORIGINAL REPORT, 3:28 PM: Just got the word from Judy Pickens — salmon drumming at the Fauntleroy Creek overlook (SW Director & upper Fauntleroy Way) is a go for 5 pm. Judy adds, “In the event of rain, come to the green house below the viewpoint and we’ll drum briefly from the porch. The spawners we know to be in the cove will surely hear!” See you there.
Gathering to sing and drum coho home to Fauntleroy Creek moves to a covered porch. pic.twitter.com/9jP62GGiSX
— West Seattle Blog (@westseattleblog) October 31, 2016
8:38 PM: Adding video and photos.
About 30 people gathered on and around the porch to listen to Pickens tell the story of the salmon along with a few rounds of drumming and singing led by Jamie Shilling.
While no coho have been seen in the creek since five ventured in (and apparently out) briefly almost two weeks ago, Pickens told the gathering that some have been seen circling the mouth of the creek in Fauntleroy Cove. “The intent (of the singing/drumming) is to honor the determination of these fish to get to fresh water.”
Volunteers are watching the creek, and if any spawners are seen, the locations will be noted with ribbons, and then those spots will be checked early next year for possible hatches. A few months later, hundreds of local students will visit to release 2,000+ salmon they’ve raised from hatchery eggs, as part of the Salmon in the Schools program, which Pickens and husband Phil Sweetland shepherd locally. The program was in danger earlier this year but as reported here recently, has been spared.
Fall is salmon homecoming season. There are two ways in the next week that you can celebrate, and learn, at two West Seattle salmon-spawning creeks:
(Spawners photographed by Dennis Hinton in 2011)
FAUNTLEROY CREEK: Tomorrow at 5 pm, join West Seattle neighbors at the Fauntleroy Creek overlook (SW Director and upper Fauntleroy Way SW, across and upslope from the ferry terminal) for the traditional singing and drumming gathering to call the coho home. All welcome, all ages, bring your own drum or just bring your voice.
LONGFELLOW CREEK: Next Saturday (November 5), 11:30 am-1 pm, you are invited to Longfellow Creek in North Delridge for this event:
Join us as we walk a section of Longfellow Creek in West Seattle to investigate the health of one of our local salmon runs. Longfellow Creek, which flows from Roxhill Bog to Elliott Bay, provides spawning habitat for a population of coho salmon every year.
A group of dedicated volunteers is working with Soundkeeper to monitor whether the coho in Longfellow reproduce successfully or succumb to stormwater pollution in the river and die before spawning (a phenomenon known as pre-spawn mortality). Every day for the duration of the salmon run, teams are documenting their observations of live coho and dissecting the carcasses to check spawning condition. Come join our Saturday group of volunteers and see them in action!
Also at the event will be groups from the Nature Consortium, Delridge Neighborhoods Development Association, King County Conservation District, and the City of Seattle to talk about wetland recovery, native plants, rain gardens, and what Seattle is doing to reduce the effects of toxic stormwater runoff on salmon populations and other wildlife.
This is a great way to observe one of nature’s most amazing migrations, get a taste of scientific field work, and learn more about what you can do to restore the health of our local waterways. Be prepared to get dirty. Wear athletic clothing and shoes that can get wet. We will be walking along the creek through some muddy areas.
Meet at Dragonfly Pavilion (4107 28th SW); RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-297-7002.
(Photo by Dave Ellifrit, from December 2015 birth announcement of J28’s calf J54)
2:10 PM: We have just left Bell Street Pier downtown, where advocates for the Southern Resident Killer Whales summoned media to hear sad news and a plea for action before time runs out.
First, they announced the death of another local orca, a nursing mom whose calf is dead or dying too. This is the “obituary” read by whale researcher Ken Balcomb:
J28 was born in mid-winter 1992/93 in or near Puget Sound Washington, and was the first of four known calves born to J17 in the J9/J5 lineage of southern resident killer whales (SRKW – see family tree) inhabiting the inshore marine waters of the Pacific Northwest. The iconic and world-famous J1, first SRKW ever to be photo-identified, was her father.
Photographs of J28 that were taken in the summer of 1993 by Center for Whale Research staff and Earthwatch volunteers show that she was a healthy and vigorous ‘calf’’ among six new calves born that year into the SRKW population. In late autumn 2002, when J28 was nine years old she acquired a small nick in the trailing edge of her dorsal fin that made her easily identifiable to whale-watchers and the general public, and she became one of the darlings for a growing fan club of humans that were beginning to raise concerns that this iconic population was precipitously declining from around 100 in 1995 to around 80 in 2003. The SRKW population was declared Endangered under the US Endangered Species Act in 2005, and earlier this year it was listed as a “species in the spotlight” by NOAA for its lack of recovery since then.
Sexual maturity for these immensely popular neighbor animals is typically attained in the early to mid teens, and J28 had her first known calf, a daughter J46, in November 2009 when she was sixteen years old. Gestation is approximately 17 months, so we can estimate that J28 became pregnant at age fourteen and a half. In January 2013 (three years after the birth of J46), a freshly dead neonate calf was found on Dungeness Spit and identified from DNA as belonging to J28 with the father most likely to have been L41. The dead calf was not given an alpha-numeric designation because it had not been documented alive. She subsequently (23 months after the dead calf) had her second live-born calf, a son J54, in December 2015 at the tail end of a so-called “Baby Boom” of 2014/15. Regrettably now that mom has died, he will not survive and may already be dead, along with two other “boomers” (J55 and L120).
J28 was noted to be losing body condition in January 2016, presumably from birthing complications, and by July was clearly emaciated. If her carcass is ever found an examination of her ovaries may reveal how many ovulations/pregnancies she actually had, as well as her proximate cause of death (probably septicemia). We estimate that she died in the Strait of Juan de Fuca sometime between 16 and 18 October, prior to her first noted absence on 19 October.
J28 is survived by her Mother, (J17) two sisters (J35 and J53), a brother (J44), a daughter (J46), and a nephew (J47). Her daughter and her oldest sister (J35) are attempting to care for the orphaned calf, but at ten months of age he is too young to survive without mother’s milk supplement, and he has gone too long with inadequate nutrition. No other lactating females have adopted him and his grandmother is too occupied raising her own newest calf (J53, born in October last year) to care for him. His sister, J46, had been catching and offering salmon to her mother and little brother for several months while mom was ill, but that was simply not enough nutrition provided to three whales by one little female no matter how hard she tried. The family requests that in lieu of sending flowers and cake*, well-wishers please send more wild Chinook salmon to and from Pacific Northwest rivers.
— West Seattle Blog (@westseattleblog) October 28, 2016
The SRKWs population is now down to 80, Balcomb said (down from 85 early this year).
The advocates are urging support for one key action to make that happen: Removal of four dams on the Lower Snake River. They say that the dams are losing money anyway, and have been studied ad infinitum, with another study about to be launched – needlessly, they say – and that the dams could be breached/removed by order of the President. 202-456-1111 is the White House number they’re urging supporters to call. They also suggested pressure on Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell as well as Governor Jay Inslee.
12:40 PM: Thanks to the texter who pointed out that Orca Network spotters are seeing orcas heading this way – southbound from Discovery Park on the north side of Elliott Bay as of a little while ago. So if you can, watch for them from West Seattle shores, and please let us know if you see them; we won’t be able to check for a while.
P.S. Our most-recent whale report involved humpbacks passing by on Saturday – if you only saw the early version, we have since added an awesome photo.
1:33 PM: Another texter says they’re visible from Constellation Park right now.
2:01 PM: Thanks to Gary Jones for photos from Alki Point!
2:54 PM: They’ve passed Fauntleroy, according to comment updates; you’re advised to watch for Mark Sears’s small research boat. From up here on the hillside, we’re seeing seiners apparently chasing the same salmon as the orcas.
3:48 PM: If you’re out watching for the orcas, you might see another type of whale too – one commenter mentions a southbound humpback, while an e-mail tip mentions what looked like a northbound gray headed toward the lighthouse a little while ago. (If you’re not sure what you’re seeing, here’s the ID guide on West Seattle-based The Whale Trail‘s site.)
4:56 PM: Now headed northbound, says Susan in comments.
ADDED MONDAY NIGHT: Thanks to Monica Zaborac for two more photos of the orcas that visited today!
3:20 PM: Thanks to Monica Zaborac for the tip and photo – two humpback whales are in the area again! She saw them from a ferry near Southworth, just west of Vashon Island; at least one Orca Network commenter says they’re visible from here (take your binoculars).
ADDED EARLY SUNDAY: Meg McDonald of Wild Northwest Beauty Photography caught one of the humpbacks breaching in Colvos Passage along the west side of Vashon Island; her image is added above.