The photos and report are from David Hutchinson of Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network:
Harbor seal pupping season is now underway in our area of Puget Sound. Over the next months, you may come across a vulnerable newborn or newly weaned pup on any of our local beaches. It is against Federal law to feed, touch, disturb or move a harbor seal pup.
Many of you are already familiar with Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network. For new residents of West Seattle, we are part of NOAA’s West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network, covering the shoreline from Brace Point through the Duwamish River, including Harbor Island and the downtown side of the East Waterway up to the Coast Guard station. Seal Sitters responds to all reports of marine mammals on the beaches, alive or dead. If you come across any marine mammal on shore, please keep your distance, keep people and pets away, and call Seal Sitters’ hotline at 206-905-7325.
Harbor seal pups are nursed by their mothers for only 4-6 weeks before being left on their own. Pups that show up this early in the season may well have a mother offshore; it’s very important that people keep their distance. If there is any disturbance nearby, a seal mom may abandon her pup. That was the case with “Echo,” the first pup Seal Sitters responded to last year. Echo still had a short umbilical cord stump attached and was estimated to be just a few days old. When no mother returned to Alki Beach for Echo, she was taken to PAWS. After a successful rehabilitation, she was released back into Puget Sound. Only members of the Marine Mammal Stranding Network are authorized to handle and transport marine mammals.
Another seal you may find resting on our beaches is the northern elephant seal. More of this species have been showing up in local waters. In April of this year, Seal Sitters provided volunteers in support of our network partner to the north, Sno-King Marine Mammal Response, to help protect a young female elephant seal “molting” on a downtown Seattle beach. A numbered flipper tag revealed that this animal had been born in early 2020 in the Año Nuevo colony in California. Recently, there have also been a number of sightings of a male elephant seal in Puget Sound to the south of West Seattle. These animals are very large, irritable and unpredictable when going through their lengthy molt, so please keep a safe distance.
Seal Sitters’ hotline (206-905-7325) is staffed from 8 AM – 8 PM, 7 days a week. Early or late calls – if no one is available when you call, please leave a message.
*Please note that all photos were taken with a telephoto lens.