Rare sighting on West Seattle shores: Elephant seal

Robin Lindsey from Seal Sitters says they’ve been enjoying a rare sighting — an elephant seal on a private beach in West Seattle. It’s actually her second visit in the past month or so, Robin explains, while sharing the photo above:

Abby was molting on this same stretch of beach in early February for several days, but finally returned to the water after a huge windstorm one night. Seal Sitters received a call yesterday afternoon from a waterfront homeowner that the huge seal (estimated to be around 350-400 lbs) was on her beach. We rarely see elephant seals around West Seattle, but there has been some breeding activity at Race Rocks off Victoria, BC, over the past number of years. There have been occasional elephant seal pups molting onshore near Port Gamble and Port Townsend. Since we are seeing them more often.

You can see video of Abby on the Seal Sitters “blubberblog” – just go here.

25 Replies to "Rare sighting on West Seattle shores: Elephant seal"

  • Trileigh March 12, 2011 (12:32 pm)

    Her face is so expressive in the video! Thanks for this wonderful report.

  • d March 12, 2011 (12:37 pm)

    That is a wonderful sighting – such a face!

  • GenHillOne March 12, 2011 (12:40 pm)

    Seal Sitters site says she was gone this morning – second their hope that the dog came AFTER she left :(

  • bridge to somewhere March 12, 2011 (1:41 pm)

    Tangential question: are there “private” beaches in Seattle? I thought everything up to the high tide line was public

  • miws March 12, 2011 (2:01 pm)

    bridge, I don’t recall all the legal details, but there is a certain amount of beach that is owned by the owners of the adjacent property.


    I suppose the “width” is determined by the property lines on land, and then heading out toward the Sound there is a certain amount, (which is what I can’t recall), of beach that is owned by the corresponding landowner.


    A good example is at between the south end of Lincoln Park, and north side of Cove Park/Ferry Dock. (Well, and south beyond the Dock as well).



  • GenHillOne March 12, 2011 (2:23 pm)

    I’m not positive, bridge, but I’ve always taken that to mean more about HOW one would most easily get to the beach. Meaning that there isn’t a public park/beach access nearby, so you’d have to cut through someone’s private property to get to it (or walk a long way from that public access).

  • GenHillOne March 12, 2011 (2:24 pm)

    I’m not positive, bridge, but I’ve always taken that to mean more about HOW one would most easily get to the beach. Meaning that there isn’t a public park/beach access nearby, so you’d have to cut through someone’s private property to get to it (which obviously isn’t appropriate) or walk a long way from that public access.

  • LE March 12, 2011 (2:31 pm)

    No, beaches in West Seattle are mostly private all the way out to the mean LOW tide.

  • Mookie March 12, 2011 (2:48 pm)

    I get that same expression on my face when I’m molting.

  • GenHillOne March 12, 2011 (3:37 pm)

    Not only delayed, but double-posted as well…weird, and my apologies!

  • DC March 12, 2011 (4:12 pm)

    Wow, great photo!

  • S March 12, 2011 (4:22 pm)

    Great picture! Thank you for sharing it. So great to live in a place where you have the opportunity to see sights like this out almost in your own front yard…

  • bridge to somewhere March 12, 2011 (4:40 pm)

    Thanks for the info everyone! You learn something new on the blog every day!

  • seewhatsealionsstart March 12, 2011 (8:54 pm)

    Sweet gift of nature. Beautiful photo. Any concern her being in this far?

  • WS fan March 12, 2011 (10:10 pm)

    I can’t state all the legal language, but property owners who own the tidelands in the state of Washington own and PAY property taxes on that land. They own it to the median low tide. I am not a legal or title expert but this is close to what the law reads. I believe the law states that a person can walk across those tidelands but they can not pick up property (shells, clams, seafood, other treasures, etc.) on that private property. You are trespassing when you stop on private beach front property and pick up anything!

  • Lura Ercolano March 12, 2011 (10:50 pm)

    No, the law does NOT actually state that a person can even walk across those tidelands. Not really.

    See: http://www.atg.wa.gov/AGOOpinions/Opinion.aspx?section=archive&id=14852

    That’s a bit old, but I am not aware of any court ruling or legislative action that would have changed that.

    I’m concerned about the people who not only mistakenly believe it’s public, but who also believe it’s an off-leash area. There’s a guy who regularly paddle-boards two miles, and has his golden retriever off-leash on the beach both ways.

  • miws March 13, 2011 (7:53 am)

    Another thought just occurred; I believe King County Parcel Viewer shows how far out along the tidelands beachfront property runs.



  • Robin March 13, 2011 (8:53 am)

    Interesting dialog that Abby the ellie has started. First of all, there are no concerns at all about her being on our shore as she appears perfectly healthy. And you can certainly see from her girth that she is successfully foraging!

    As far as “private” beach goes, I just want to remind everyone that while the public may be granted access to all beaches when certain tide conditions permit, that stretch of beach is still someone’s backyard and not an off leash beach. In fact, it is illegal for a dog to be on the beach PERIOD – it is a $500 fine – Animal Control has begun enforcing that ordinance that along Alki and Lincoln Park. Off leash dogs are a serious risk to seal pups in particular, but also to a 350+ lb resting elephant seal.

    Please follow blubberblog.org for what’s happening on the beaches of West Seattle. We’ll let you know if Abby shows up again. Thanks to everyone for helping to keep our marine mammals safe!

  • Lura March 13, 2011 (10:45 am)

    Robin said, “it is illegal for a dog to be on the beach PERIOD”. Wait a sec – let’s be accurate here. Robin, are you saying that it would even be illegal for a beach property owner to have a dog on their own, private, beach?
    That’s an awfully big period. I would have said illegal-period on the public beaches, but that private beach owners are allowed to have their dogs (and their friends’s dogs) on their own property, EXCEPT for when there is a marine mammal on the beach. Do you have a source for a broader prohibition?
    I don’t think it is useful to overstate the law.

  • Lura March 13, 2011 (10:51 am)

    I love Mike’s link. But I’d like to point out that just zooming in doesn’t give the full beach property lines – you just see the lines up to the water’s edge.
    To see property lines out onto the beach, try entering an intersection into the search box ( such as Beach and Atlas), which gives you a picture with parcel numbers. Then copy one of those parcel numbers into the search box and you will get a map with that parcel’s boundaries displayed all the way out onto the beach.

  • Robin March 13, 2011 (11:21 am)

    It is my understanding that dogs are not allowed on beaches in Seattle – you can also find this information online if you google it (sites such as hikewithmydog.com). Given the confusion about “private” property lines and public access, all we ask is that if people insist on taking their dogs on the beach – please leash them at all times to avoid problems. Not only can dogs hurt (and kill) marine mammals, dogs can be injured as well and get diseases from them. We are all dog lovers and don’t want to see any animals injured!

    Thanks – and if anyone has legal clarification I’d appreciate knowing more.

  • miws March 13, 2011 (12:29 pm)

    Now that it’s been brought up, I seem to recall the dogs on private beach discussion coming up here before.


    I am nowhere even close to 100% sure on this, but I seem to vaguely recall that it’s okay for dogs to be on private beach with the property owner’s consent, possibly with the caveat that they are not posing a direct danger to seals and such, that may be resting on the beach


    However, I’m quite a bit more certain that dogs are supposed to be secured in their “land yards” by chain/rope or secure fence, so I would think that part of the law would carry over to private beaches as well.


    Again, this is recollection from a petrified (as in old and rock hard, not scared) brain, so may not be accurate. ;)



  • Mary T March 13, 2011 (1:05 pm)

    Thank you, Robin! People get really nasty with us when we tell them they need to leash their dogs in Lincoln Park. Our dogs adore splashing in the water, too, but we go to the dog parks with water access for that. Our dogs are big and would seriously go nutty if they saw a seal; it would not end well for either. Anyone who saw our dog getting very huffy that we weren’t letting him go check out the snow geese at Lincoln the other night could attest to that!

  • Eilene March 13, 2011 (9:53 pm)

    Living in West Seattle is like living near a wildlife refuge:
    Great blue herons, Bald eagles, Osprey flying overhead or perching nearby.
    It has been fun watching Canada goose goslings from the time of hatching, as fluffy yellow creatures, in the spring, to young adulthood and the first flights by mid-summer.
    I have also seen raccoons and otters, have not had the privilege, though of seeing the coyotes.
    Since joining Seal Sitters last year, I have had the enjoyment of “baby-sitting” several Harbor seal pups, and as a special treat, was able to watch over Abby, the uncommon (in Seattle) Elephant seal.
    Thanks to WSB for their coverage of all this wildlife we are fortunate to live near.

  • loved her March 14, 2011 (9:45 pm)

    I saw Abby swimming on the North end of Lincoln Park yesterday 3/13. The water was calm and she kept coming up for air and taking HUGE breaths that you could hear from the shore – sounded much like an elephant! I have seen many a seal there and it this was not a normal seal. Plus I saw her pointed nose. Beautiful sight to see!!!

Sorry, comment time is over.