The photo and report are from David Hutchinson of Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network:
Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network had a surprise visitor this week.
“Pearl,” an adult female harbor seal, who gave birth and nursed her pup for weeks along the West Seattle shoreline in 2018, returned with a new pup this season. She was identified by comparing new photos of the spots on her fur with similar photos taken last year. The 2018 pup was nicknamed “Jam”, as they were first spotted the day after the Alki Sub Pop concert. This year’s pup has been named “Minnie Pearl” in keeping with the entertainment theme – although you probably would have to be of a certain age to get the connection.
It is very unusual to have the opportunity to observe a nursing mom and pup in busy West Seattle. Newborn harbor seals rely exclusively on their mother’s milk, so it’s extremely important that Pearl not be frightened away and possibly abandon her pup. Pups remain with their mothers for only 4 – 6 weeks before having to survive on their own. Seals this young don’t have the strength to swim for extended periods or an adequate blubber thickness for warmth. They need every opportunity to haul out of the water to rest and warm up. Their first year mortality rate is approximately 50%.
All marine mammals are protected by federal law. Any observed violations are referred to NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement for investigation. It’s now “pupping season” in south Puget Sound. If you come across Pearl & Minnie Pearl, or any other seal on the beach or on a nearby offshore rock, we’re asking you to give them plenty of space, keep others and pets away, and call the Seal Sitters’ Hotline at 206-905-7325. To learn more about harbor seals and other local marine mammals, please visit our website at www.sealsitters.org