Seal Sitters updates: ‘Now in the throes of pupping season’

(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.

20 Replies to "Seal Sitters updates: 'Now in the throes of pupping season'"

  • CEA August 30, 2014 (9:21 am)

    Thank you for this story and reminder, and many thanks to Robin and the Seal Sitters volunteers who are making such a difference. I continue to be dismayed at the number of off-leash dogs I see on our beaches despite signage. Is it possible to post more visible signs along Alki? Some people will ignore them but some might think twice if the sign was big, bold and right there for people to point to.

  • DP August 30, 2014 (10:56 am)

    I placed a call to SS earlier this week. The pup took off before they arrived, however it did not look malnourished at all. The little one was small but looked solid…if fact, I saw it catching fish about 100 yards off shore.

  • specific actions August 30, 2014 (11:21 am)

    If people are walking by dog owners flagrantly ignoring obvious signage, what steps should they take to report these individuals.

    For instance, what phone number to call?
    What email address to send photographs?

    Please provide this essential information here in case people will actually put the contact portals on their phones!

    Yesterday, I was nearly assaulted by the restroom building. A dog was unleashed and scaring walkers up on the street. He had the dog fetching sticks right on the beach a minute before right between the NOAA and Seal Sitters signage.

    The dog’s owner, a caucasian man about 50-60 yrs. old, watched laughing from down on the beach. I saw two dog owners with properly leashed dogs pull their dogs off the sidewalk into the street because this dog was very out of control. I recognized this man. He lives in Alki with this chocolate lab and another dog. I asked him to please put the dog on a leash. He would not. He is entitled, you see.

    How should people handle this? Who do people report these incidents to? Please advise here in the comments. Because if there isn’t anywhere to report readily available, I am guessing people will not bother to suffer the abuse that the shaming of such requests invokes.

    Seriously. How do people report this?

  • Diane August 30, 2014 (11:46 am)

    I agree with comments above; specifics please on how to report irresponsible dog owners who let their dogs off leash to run rampant on our beaches; off leash dogs also put young children in danger, highly unpredictable

  • miws August 30, 2014 (12:24 pm)

    specific actions, if there is imminent danger, call 911.


    Otherwise, SPD non-emergency; 206-625-5011

    Animal Control/Seattle Animal Shelter; 206-386-7387



  • Kathy August 30, 2014 (12:49 pm)

    I have this number in my cell phone “Dogsonbeach”:

    (It’s the Animal Shelter 206-386-7387. Dial “7” for complaints.)

    No dogs on the beach, period, leashed or unleashed. Dog parents, please take your dog children to an off-leash area or to the Pacific Beaches where they can run all they want. I know it may seem cruel to keep them from this pleasure in the city, but there are other creatures that also deserve to live in their own habitat with out threat.

  • AJP August 30, 2014 (2:31 pm)

    How about a big sign that says “UNLEASHED DOGS LIKE TO EAT BABY SEALS” no pussyfooting around it!

  • David Hutchinson August 30, 2014 (2:47 pm)

    In Seal Sitters conversations with Animal Control and the Seattle Police, we have been advised as follows:
    1) In cases of assault or emergencies always call 911.
    2) To report off leash dogs or any dogs on Seattle public beaches, call Seattle Animal Control at 206-386-7387. Include the location and the description of the dog and owner. Even if they can’t respond, they file the report. If you know the address of a habitual offender, Animal Control will pay them a visit.
    3) You can send photos with the “Service Request Form” at the website: OR using the mobile app “Find It, Fix It” from your cell phone. This is available for Android users from the Google Play Store while iPhone users can locate it in the App Store.
    Please use caution when interacting with dog owners in these situations. As with people in general, a few can react in an aggressive manner if confronted.

  • Mikeinupperdelridge August 30, 2014 (4:04 pm)

    Humans off the beach, they are known to disturb the seals.

    • WSB August 30, 2014 (4:28 pm)

      Currently, humans, whether helpful or harmful, are legally allowed on Seattle Parks-owned beaches. Dogs, whether helpful or harmful, are not, even if no marine mammals are nearby. Full text of city law:

      • WSB August 30, 2014 (4:46 pm)

        P.S. A new post on the Seal Sitters’ Blubberblog shows among other things what healthy pups would look like. Interesting stat – by mid-September, 90 percent of pups will be weaned, meaning they have to fend for themselves, and that’s a particularly precarious time –

  • Daldart August 30, 2014 (10:34 pm)

    Dogs don’t kill nearly as much marine life as whales do.

  • diverlaura August 31, 2014 (1:17 am)

    As WSB points out, the pups are weaning in Sept. which is the same time our storm drains start dumping a whole host of nasty stuff into Puget Sound. One more reason that we must do what we can in the ‘off season’ to keep Polluted stormwater runoff OUT of Puget Sound. Learn more at

  • miws August 31, 2014 (7:38 am)

    Dogs don’t kill nearly as much marine life as whales do.


    Daldart, whenever you witness someone walking their domesticated, off or on-leash whale on the beach, please call the appropriate number(s) listed in above comments. Also, snap a pic, if you are able.


    If you don’t carry a cell, just ask someone nearby, if they can call.



  • David Hutchinson August 31, 2014 (9:38 am)

    Seal Sitters MMSN operates under the theme of “Share the Shore”. Our goal is not to keep people from enjoying our public beaches but to fulfill the mission of all NOAA stranding networks – to protect the marine mammals that we share those beaches with.
    When Seal Sitters’ hotline (206-905-7325) receives a call, a first responder is dispatched to the location to assess the situation. If a live animal is present, a taped perimeter is often set up to provide a safe zone in accordance with the Marine Mammal Protection Act. NOAA recommends 100 yards, but in an urban environment, we realize that is not practical. Instead we cordon off an area designed to provide a safe resting place for the animal while having as minimal an impact as possible on beach access for the public.
    In most cases, our scheduler will then call on volunteers who have entered time on our online calendar. We provide binoculars and a spotting scope for use by the public and are there to answer questions and hand out informational material. All volunteers have attended a 2 hour orientation session to familiarize them with our local marine mammals and Seal Sitters’ role as a member of NOAA’s West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network. We have several of these trainings each year.
    September and October are the most active months in terms of very young harbor seal pups seeking rest on our beaches. If you come across one of Seal Sitters’ perimeters on your favorite West Seattle beach, please stop and take time to talk with our volunteers and enjoy the privilege of observing and learning about some of our unique local wildlife.

  • G August 31, 2014 (10:09 am)

    I’m in favor of more signage; not a fan of reporting neighbors and living in a surveillance state. Everyone needs to use some commonsense and flexibility, the beach probably isn’t the best place for dogs. But the over-zealous threats of reporting people need to be toned down too. I think there are healthy populations of harbor seals (more than I remember when I was growing up), but it’s important for some people, so I bend a little.

    There is a story from WS poet Richard Hugo’s biography when he and a fellow poet were giving a reading and someone come up afterwards and went off on a religious tirade. When Hugo asked him why he didn’t cut him off, he said, “because it’s important for them.” Indeed.

  • Alphonse August 31, 2014 (5:40 pm)

    I think from now on I’ll decide which laws are worth following based on casual observations of current conditions compared to what I remember from childhood. And it will be OK because I am spectacularly condescending and smug and belong to a book club.

  • WSB August 31, 2014 (9:29 pm)

    Thanks for all the info, David!

  • Mike September 1, 2014 (10:23 am)

    I appreciate the work Seal Sitters is doing. As much as it’s an issue for dogs to potentially harass or attack a seal pup, humans are a far worse threat. Any human interaction is deadly to a seal pup. I keep reading posts about dogs on the beach, but people need to realize humans are the real threat here. This is the same issue sea turtles and monk seals have in Hawaii. Humans are curious, but don’t seem to read very well. If you see a human even remotely close (30 feet or less) near a seal, yell at them to get away and leave the seal alone. If they don’t, call the police as its a violation of federal law and punishable by fines and jail time. Yes, your little child walking towards a seal pup can land you in jail. Enjoy the beach, read the signs, follow the laws.

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