The photos and report are from David Hutchinson of Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network:
On Wednesday, Seal Sitters’ volunteers responded to the first harbor seal pup in West Seattle this 2020 pupping season. Early in the morning our Hotline received a report of a small pup swimming by the steps along the Alki promenade. The pup, nicknamed “Echo”, finally settled on one of the lower steps.
While Seal Sitters is the official NOAA stranding network for West Seattle, we partner with other groups to provide specialized health evaluations and care. SR3 (headquartered in Des Moines) sent their vet to do a visual assessment. Echo still had an umbilical stump present. This usually dries up and falls off by a week to 10 days after birth, so this was a very young pup. A seal pup’s best chance for survival is always with its mother, so it was decided to monitor Echo throughout the day in hopes that she might reunite with her mother at some point. The chances of a pup being abandoned due to disturbance is much higher in a busy urban environment. After many hours of rest, Echo returned to the water with the rising tide around 5:00 that evening and after a brief detour as far as the Alki Bathhouse, was seen swimming offshore to the west toward the Alki Lighthouse.
On Thursday morning, Echo was reported on a private beach west of the promenade. With the consent of the property owner, Seal Sitters responded and watched over the pup until the arrival of SR3 staff. The pup appeared thinner and there was no evidence of an attending mother. Because of this, it was decided to remove Echo and transport her to PAWS for rehab. Seal Sitters received a report yesterday morning from PAWS – Echo is female, just under 30 inches long and weighs a bit less than 20 pounds. She arrived at their facility thin and dehydrated and the hope is that she will do well in rehab.
Harbor seal pupping season is from late June through September in our area, so you may come across more pups on our West Seattle beaches over the next few months. This is typical behavior as they need to rest and warm up. Please remember to keep back and ask others to do the same. Always keep dogs on a leash and at a distance. As soon as possible, contact Seal Sitters’ Hotline at 206-905-7325.
The request in bold is extremely important – another wildlife advocate told us about Echo just before we heard from Seal Sitters, and noted that spectators were way too close and abundant when she was at the public beach, which could have led to her mother abandoning her.