An update from David Hutchinson of Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network:
Seal Sitters continues to monitor our visiting Northern Elephant Seal since he was first spotted in West Seattle waters on July 16. He had previously been sighted in the Des Moines/Redondo area in early June. The volunteers at SR3 (the newly opened Marine Mammal Hospital in Des Moines) named him “Ruckus” considering all the attention and excitement he was creating. To our knowledge, he has not hauled out on any public beach in West Seattle, but with the cooperation of property owners along the Sound, Seal Sitters’ first responders have been able to check on his location and condition.
While elephant seals vary somewhat in color through shades of brown and gray, they all go through an annual “catastrophic molt.” During this process they shed their top layer of skin and fur in chunks which results in a dramatic change in appearance and they remain on the beach for an extended period of time. This is normal, but can give the impression that the animal is sick or dying.
If Ruckus is still in our area when he molts, we hope he can find a quiet safe beach. If you should come across him while out walking our beaches, please keep a respectful distance and report his location to the Seal Sitters’ Hotline at 206-905-7325.
The top photo is of Ruckus on a private West Seattle beach on 7/18, while the bottom photo is of a molting female Northern Elephant Seal on a downtown Seattle beach back in April of this year. Female elephant seals molt in the spring while males molt later in the summer.