West Seattle, Washington
The poster was sent by Robin Lindsey of Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network, who explains:
NOAA’s Office for Law Enforcement (OLE) is offering a $20,000 reward for information about the recent sea lion shootings, a confirmed total of 12 shot dead (9 in West Seattle alone). It is our hope that this will prompt someone to come forward and provide valuable leads. Seal Sitters’ hotline (206-905-7325) received numerous calls reporting shots heard along the Elliott Bay waterfront during the time period the animals were shot (September to early December). There is undoubtedly someone in the public who knows something about the shootings. It is time to get some justice for these remarkable, gregarious animals.
We reported on the shootings multiple times in the fall; the backstory is summarized in this post on Seal Sitters’ website, which also includes a higher-resolution version of the poster shown above, for anyone interested in printing and displaying it.
KNOW SOMETHING? As the poster says, call 206-526-4300, or go here.
One more wildlife sighting before we move on to other news: David Spry shared the clip, reporting, “I managed to get some footage of a coyote this morning. It was just outside of my fence in Fauntleroy Park.” We used to get and publish relatively frequent coyote reports, but haven’t heard much about them for a while, and we get the occasional reader note saying the same thing. Nobody officially tracks them, though a new Woodland Park Zoo/Seattle University project is aiming to do so.
P.S. If you’re new – here’s info on coexisting with coyotes.
SATURDAY REPORT: Thanks to the texter who reports a humpback whale sighting off Jack Block Park, headed northbound, a while ago. Not sure how to tell what kind of whale you’re looking at? Here’s The Whale Trail‘s page about humpbacks.
ADDED SUNDAY: Thanks to Colin for sharing the photo, added above, via a comment.
12:05 PM: Another orca alert from Kersti Muul: Whales have been spotted in the Bainbridge Island ferry lanes, southbound, so are likely to be within view from West Seattle soon. As always, please let us know if you see them!
12:29 PM: An update from Jeff Hogan of Killer Whale Tales – seven to ten orcas, closer to the Bainbridge side but coming into view off Constellation Park south of Alki Point and likely visible from Emma Schmitz Overlook/Me-Kwa-Mooks within half an hour.
ADDED SATURDAY EVENING: Thanks to everyone who provided location updates in comments. Adding a photo sent by Monica Zaborac.
3:01 PM: Earlier today, transient orcas passed West Seattle southbound. Right now, Southern Resident Killer Whales are inbound, north of Elliott Bay and headed this way, according to a tip just in from Kersti Muul. Let us know if you see them!
3:30 PM: Off Beach Drive, according to commenters.
3:56 PM: Mel just tweeted about seeing them from the Southworth ferry.
4:18 PM: Jeff Hogan from Killer Whale Tales just called. He says there are three groups of wildlife out there – the orcas traveling through the Fauntleroy ferry lanes and a humpback with them, a “large group of harbor porpoises” near Lowman Beach, and a bottlenose dolphin off Me-Kwa-Mooks (Emma Schmitz Overlook)!
Maybe you’ve noticed that distinctive vehicle in and around West Seattle. Find out more about the organization behind it at tomorrow’s Alki Community Council meeting. Here’s the announcement:
The next regular monthly meeting of the Alki Community Council will be held Thursday (1/17) at the Alki UCC Church, 6115 SW Hinds, 7–8:30 pm.
Included on the evening’s agenda will be a presentation by Casey Mclean, Executive Director and Veterinary Nurse of SR3 (SEALIFE Response, Rehab and Research). The group’s mission is to improve the health and welfare of marine wildlife in the Pacific NW, and one of the ways they are doing that is by building the first rehab center dedicated exclusively to marine animals in this region. Current plans are for the facility to be located on Harbor Avenue south of Salty’s.
Casey assisted with and performed necropsies on a number of the shot California sea lions that washed ashore in West Seattle late last year.
Again this week, Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network received reports of what someone thought was a marine mammal in distress – but wasn’t. David Hutchinson as a result shares information we’ve published in the past about “a typical behavior of sea lions that causes concerns each year,” known as “sailing.” He sent the photo, too, to help explain:
Every fall and winter, Seal Sitters’ Hotline receives calls from folks out walking West Seattle beaches who are concerned about marine mammals offshore that they feel are in distress or entangled. These reports typically turn out to be California sea lions who are regulating their body temperatures by raising flippers out of the water, referred to as “thermoregulation.”
When a single animal does this, it is called “sailing,” while if a group of sea lions is involved, it is called “rafting.” For more details on this behavior, please see the 2010 story in Seal Sitters’ Blubberblog at this link: “Sailing” sea lion sparks concern.
It is also normal behavior for a resting sea lion to just float and drift on the water’s surface without raised flippers, occasionally lifting the head to take a breath. For more information on California sea lions that visit our area during this time of year, see: About California sea lions.
Each year, marine mammals are killed by entanglement in derelict fishing gear. If you see an animal entangled in visible fishing line or net or with obvious injuries, please report this to our Hotline at 206-905-SEAL (7325).
If you haven’t heard the promising news yet: The endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales that visited central Puget Sound on Thursday had a brand-new visitor with them – as announced by the Center for Whale Research, L-Pod has a new calf, L124, born to 31-year-old L77. This is the third calf known to have been born to L77; the first one died in 2010, same year it was born, and the second one is L119, born in 2012. As CWR somberly points out, many calves don’t survive their first year, so everyone is watching and hoping for the best. The Southern Resident population is now at 75.
1:30 PM: Thanks to Kersti Muul for the tip! Southern Resident Killer Whales – K-Pod, to be specific – are headed this way, northbound from Burien’s Three Tree Point. They passed here southbound earlier in the day and have now turned around. Please let us know if you see them!
2:01 PM: Another texter says they’re in view from south of Alki Point.
2:54 PM: Turns out there are TWO groups of orcas in the area – southbound transients, northbound residents. And a TV helicopter (according to FlightRadar 24‘s tracker, the one channels 4/5 share) is buzzing them right now off Fauntleroy.
3:16 PM: Thanks for the updates in comments! NB whales are off The Arroyos now.
4:17 PM: As dusk nears, they’re between Fauntleroy and Vashon, per comments as well as a call from Donna Sandstrom of The Whale Trail.
1:38 PM: Thanks for the multiple tips – orcas are headed northbound past West Seattle this afternoon. Kersti Muul says they’re Southern Resident Killer Whales – J-Pod, to be specific. Midchannel past The Arroyos as of about 20 minutes ago, says Alison via Twitter. Let us know if you see them!
P.S. The SRKW were already in the news today because of Gov. Inslee’s budget proposal and its recommendations for helping them. We’re working on a followup.
1:46 PM: Now in the Fauntleroy ferry lanes, per text from Kersti.
2:45 PM: Photos added – thank you! Kersti says the whales were passing Constellation Park as of about half an hour ago.
ADDED THURSDAY NIGHT: The video above is by Greg Snyder, as the whales passed Alki Point.
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Three times in the past week, endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales have passed West Seattle shores.
It’s also been a busy week for one of their most fervent support groups, The Whale Trail.
Unannounced guest speakers stole the show.
10:23 AM: Just heard from Donna Sandstrom of The Whale Trail that southbound orcas are off Bainbridge Island and headed this way, likely in view from West Seattle shortly. Please let us know if you see them!
11:39 AM: In addition to commenters’ reports, we also got a text of orcas in view from Lowman Beach.
12:41 PM: Updates from Kersti Muul in comments and Donna by phone – the orcas (J Pod) have turned around and are now headed northbound.
2:51 PM: Added a photo sent by Kersti, of her photo taken as a second group of orcas headed NB around 1:30 pm, closer to this side of the Sound.
1:03 PM: Thanks to Kersti Muul for the tip: Orcas are northbound off south Vashon Island! Let us know if you see them.
3:57 PM: No orca updates but Pia called to let us know about a gray-whale sighting in Elliott Bay!
(Photo by Trileigh Tucker, from last Friday’s orca visit, with local researchers observing)
Missed getting this into our calendar! It’s also happening tonight – 7 pm at C & P Coffee Company (5612 California SW; WSB sponsor) – and with the intense interest in the fate of Puget Sound’s Southern Resident Killer Whales, this relates to the frequent questions about how what we do on land affects their health in the water. The announcement:
Pesticides and Orcas: Making the Connection
New evidence suggests that orcas are more sensitive to pesticides than we thought.
Lisa Hayward and Clement Furlong of the University of Washington Superfund Research Program (UW SRP) will present the story of a surprise discovery in genomics that suggests marine mammals may be much more vulnerable to organophosphates like chlorpyrifos than previously recognized.Their talk will cover evidence both of orcas’ vulnerability and also of their exposure in Puget Sound. Chlorpyrifos is a common pesticide recently in the news after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reversed a 2016 ban on it in a move later deemed illegal by a federal court. EPA appealed that decision in September and chlorpyrifos continues to be used widely on crops like wheat and apples.
About the speakers:
Lisa Hayward manages research translation for the UW SRP and has a background in endocrinology and science policy.
Clement Furlong is a principal investigator with the UW SRP and a world-renowned expert on the genetic and physiological basis of vulnerability to pesticides.
About The Whale Trail
The Whale Trail is a series of sites to view orcas and other marine mammals from shore. Our mission is to inspire appreciation and stewardship of whales and our marine environment.
Through our current sites and signs, including two on every Washington State ferry, we reach more than 50 million people each year. The Whale Trail is currently adding new sites along the North American west coast, from California to British Columbia.
The Whale Trail is led by a core team of partners including NOAA Fisheries, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Seattle Aquarium, the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, the Whale Museum. Donna Sandstrom is the Founder and Executive Director. Many members of the team first met on the successful effort to return Springer, the orphaned orca, to her pod.
Admission is $5 donation (TWT is a nonprofit) for adults – advance tickets are available online – no charge for kids.
SUNDAY, 3:49 PM: An update today from Robin Lindsey of Seal Sitters Marine Stranding Network:
We are now up to 10 confirmed shot dead California sea lions in King and Kitsap counties for the period from September to end of November.
On Friday the 30th, Seal Sitters MMSN responded to a report by Seattle Parks employee Marco of a very decomposed California sea lion carcass washed up at Don Armeni boat launch. This was the same animal that was wedged under the Water Taxi dock the day before, which we marked with bio paint for identification and pushed out into the current. Through photo comparison, we were able to verify that this was the same animal reported along the downtown Seattle waterfront some time ago which has been inaccessible. Thanks to Parks and Seal Sitters’ first responders, the carcass was secured until necropsy options could be weighed.
Because of delays getting EPA permits required for towing/sinking, the Marine Mammal Stranding Network is unable to do necropsies until a permit is secured because of disposal issues. That is, unless we have options for burial/disposal on land. Read more about those challenges on my blubberblog post here.
Thanks to the efforts of Carol Baker and her many Seattle Parks/SW employees who lent a hand and provided removal services, we were able to do a limited necropsy onsite of this estimated 600 lb animal. X-rays of the head, done by a local veterinary lab, confirmed that the sea lion had indeed been shot.
There are 6 other reported dead sea lions in King/Kitsap who have not been necropsied, bringing the total of dead sea lions to 16. Additionally, there are several other dead animals in neighboring counties. Blubberblog.org provides the absolute latest updates regarding numbers and any new information.
MONDAY UPDATE: SS also wants you to know that “The Marine Mammal Stranding Network is gathering data from those counties and that information will be shared when possible.”
12:42 PM: While that was the message displayed alongside Mike the inflatable orca outside the Alki Bathhouse, steps away, “Welcome the Orcas” attendees got to put it into action:
The orcas that we mentioned earlier were in sight in the distance. Indoors, you can learn about them – and kids’ activities include ornament-making and face-painting:
ADDED 2:07 PM: A few more scenes from our visit to the celebration. Above, Whale Trail founder/executive director Donna Sandstrom with orca-costumed volunteers. Below, one of the orca-photo signs from the mini-parade:
Inside the bathhouse, all-ages environmental education:
Another of the partner organizations, SR3:
The timing of the celebration is based on the fact that the Southern Resident orcas usually return to Puget Sound in fall to chase salmon runs – the food on which they rely. The endangered whales have been in a brighter spotlight this fall after a task force appointed by the governor – with Sandstrom among its members – released a report with recommendations on how to save them from going extinct.
10:42 AM: Thanks to Kersti Muul for the update – orcas are in the area again, headed northbound past the Fauntleroy ferry dock. (On their way to “Welcome the Orcas,” under way at Alki Bathhouse until 2 pm, apparently!) Let us know if you see them.
11:48 AM: Thanks for the updates in comments! Photo added above, from Kersti.
1:30 PM: Thanks to Monica Zaborac for the photos above and below this line, taken while looking toward Vashon.
No recent updates, and those viewing during “Welcome the Orcas“ were looking north from the Alki promenade, so we believe they’re out of view for now – please let us know if that changes!
12:43 PM: Thanks to Kersti Muul for the tip: Resident orcas are back in the area (just in time for tomorrow’s Welcome the Orcas event!) and headed this way. K Pod members were seen northbound off Normandy Park and are currently resting off Burien’s Three Tree Point, Kersti says. Let us know if you see them!
12:50 PM: Now an update from Jeff Hogan of Killer Whale Tales: They’re back on the move, off The Arroyos, and closer to this side of the Sound, so a good viewing opportunity if you can get to the shore!
1:25 PM: Update from Jeff – they’re now off Lincoln Park, still northbound.
2:05 PM: Visible from Constellation Park, according to updates from Jeff and from Donna Sandstrom of The Whale Trail (which is co-presenting tomorrow’s event).
4 PM: No further reports, and no remaining pods of whale-watchers in view. Photos added!
Saturday is a huge day for holiday events in West Seattle (from breakfast through tree lighting) but if you hadn’t yet seen this in our year-round calendar, we want to be sure you know you are invited to “Welcome the Orcas” at midday Saturday on Alki! The announcement explains that this will be both fun and educational, at a time when the future of Puget Sound’s orcas is in question:
The Whale Trail and Seal Sitters invite the public to an inspirational, educational, fun and family-friendly event on Saturday, December 1, to mark the annual return of the southern resident orcas to the inland waters of Puget Sound. At the event, members of the public can learn about the final recommendations put forth by Governor Inslee’s Southern Resident Orca Task Force and have fun while learning about Seattle’s famous residents and the major threats to their survival.
“There’s nothing like watching J, K or L pods from shore at Whale Trail locations like Alki Beach, Point Robinson, or Point Defiance, or from the deck of a ferry. Seeing these endangered whales follow salmon into Puget Sound is a reminder that we each and all have a role to play in their recovery,” task force member and The Whale Trail founder Donna Sandstrom said. “The Governor’s Task Force has recommended a robust and comprehensive set of actions to address the threats that have brought these beloved and iconic pods to the edge of extinction: lack of salmon, toxin accumulations, and vessel noise and disturbance. Now we need everyone’s help to make sure the recommendations are acted on. With three pregnant females in the population – one each in J, K and L pod – there’s even more reason to act, and no time to wait.”
Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network was founded in 2007 to protect marine mammals and to educate the public about our shared environment. “The Whale Trail is a natural ally in this work,” said Lynn Shimamoto, Co-Investigator of Seal Sitters. “We are thrilled to join with all our partners in welcoming the orcas back to Puget Sound.”
Details on the Welcome the Orcas event:
Who: Hosted by The Whale Trail and Seal Sitters with support from Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and with partner booths from SR3, Orca Relief and Mid Sound Fisheries Enhancement Group
What: “Welcome the Orcas” community event featuring environmental booths, face painting, orca BINGO and an orca parade to welcome the southern residents to the central Sound. Event-goers are encouraged to dress in their best “orca spirit” costumes! Free and open to the public.
The event begins with activities, games, and informational booths at 10, speakers at 11:30 am, Orca Parade at noon, 12:30-2 pm “light reception” mode. The Bathhouse is at the east end of the Alki boardwalk, 60th/Alki.
11:17 AM: Three more sea lions have been found dead of “acute trauma,” including one necropsied on Vashon Island Monday, according to Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network. That brings the recent total to 16. If you have a tip for investigators, NOAA’s hotline is 800-853-1964. If you see a dead marine mammal offshore, or one that’s alive or dead on the shore, report it to SS, 206-905-SEAL.
6:22 PM: We’ve received an update from NOAA, via spokesperson Michael Milstein:
(W)e now believe that eight sea lions were shot. The total number of dead sea lions is still 16, but the one from Vashon Island over the weekend was confirmed shot through x-rays today. Also the one found in West Seattle on Thanksgiving Day was decomposed but further examination has shown that it was shot, although we cannot be sure that was the cause of death given the decomposition.
I am attaching an x-ray of the sea lion found in West Seattle on Nov. 15 in which you can see different-sized shotgun pellets.
Our NOAA Office of Law Enforcement continues to investigate and we continue to urge people to advise us of any information related to this case.
Also, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has increased the reward it’s offering:
Recently Sea Shepherd offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the shooting of Sea Lions in Puget Sound.
Sea Shepherd is now increasing that reward to $10,000. Sea Shepherd is also offering an additional $2,000 for video evidence of the shooting of any Sea Lions in Puget Sound if the video shows the faces of the killers or images including the name of a vessel. This $2,000 will be payable upon receipt and not contingent on arrest and conviction. If the film leads to the arrest and conviction of the Sea Lion killers, the balance of $10,000 will be paid.
The photo is from Deidre, one of a half-dozen people who messaged us about the sea-lion carcass floating off Alki today. We checked with Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network, which confirms this is the most recent of the 13 dead sea lions noted here on Thursday: “Seal Sitters responded yesterday when it rested against the Water Taxi dock. We secured overnight for a visual exam that revealed a suspected gunshot wound. Carcass was too decomposed for necropsy, so we documented with photos and allowed it to drift free.” The most-recent SS update includes numbers for reporting sightings, dead or alive, as well as for contacting investigators with any information on the sea-lion shootings.
One week after two California sea lions were necropsied at Don Armeni Boat Ramp, and one day after another was buried on the shore near Seacrest, we have an update: 13 sea-lion deaths in the region – not just West Seattle – blamed on “acute trauma … from human interaction.” That’s from an update on the Seal Sitters Marine Stranding Network website, which says state and federal authorities continue to investigate. Read the update in its entirety by going here.
Thanks to James Moore for sending the photo, taken around 11 this morning. He reports: “It’s not an orca – but I think it’s a harbor porpoise. It was traveling south just off the Arroyos all by itself and as you can see quite close to shore (they’re usually quite far out and in a group).”