By Jen Mannas, PAWS Naturalist
Summer is in full swing in the Seattle area and that means Harbor Seals are having their pups. You may have already started seeing adults more often in the water and snoozing on the beach.
Chubby Harbor Seal females haul out and give birth to one pup during the summer along the coast. They then nurse their pup for an average of 24 days, during which time pups gain between 1.1 and 1.3 pounds per day. They're able to gain so much weight due to the high fat content of the female’s milk.
Pictured: our first Harbor Seal pup of the season, read on for his rescue story
As you can imagine, this takes a lot of time and energy from the female, who cares for her pup by herself. To keep up with the demands of her hungry pup, during the nursing period, females must leave their babies alone on the beach for hours at a time to forage. During this time pups sleep on the beach awaiting their mothers’ return. This is typically when people see baby seals alone on the beach.
Harbor seals, like every other marine mammal, are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act which prohibits approaching, touching and harassing them at any time. You can, however, quietly observe them from 100 yards away.
Fourth of July is a particularly difficult time of year for seals, with fireworks and beach parties causing pups to be abandoned every year. Check out this blog by Seal Sitters for advice on celebrating responsibly.
If you believe you've found an injured adult—or a pup who's been unattended by its mother for more than 48 hours—contact Sno-King Marine Mammal Response at 206.695.2277 or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Seal Hotline at 1.866.767.6114.
Sometimes Harbor Seal pups are deemed abandoned by NOAA Fisheries and brought to local wildlife centers for rehabilitation. PAWS Wildlife Center is one of two centers in Washington state permitted to take in seals.
We just received our first Harbor Seal pup of the season on June 26th. This male pup (pictured below) was seen alone trying to crawl up a cement pillar offshore, which is no place for a seal pup.
Image kindly provided by Robin Lindsey, Seal Sitters
As soon as the frightened seal pup was reported to Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network they responded right away, erecting a large tape perimeter to keep people away as they watched for any signs of mom.
They kept a close eye on the pup for over 24 hours and yet no mom appeared. Due to the very public location of this pup in Lincoln Park, NOAA deemed him a candidate for rehabilitation and he was transported to PAWS.
On arrival he had a few puncture wounds on his head and tail, he weighed just over 18 pounds, and was pretty hungry (intake examination pictured above). His wounds were cleaned and he was given fluids to stabilize him for the night.
Currently he is doing well and adjusting to the outside pool where he spends his days, swimming, sunning, and snoozing.
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