Friday, December 11, 2009

Kudos to Mike!

In case you missed it, Mike, was featured in today's Bellingham Herald "Photo of the Day". In this photo by Philip Dwyer of the Bellingham Herald (, Mike shows students the skull of a stellar sea lion. 

Mike serves as the Director of Necropsy for the Whatcom Marine Mammal Stranding Network. Good job, Mike!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Alternative Holiday Market

A big "THANK YOU" goes out to the many friends of the Whatcom Marine Mammal Stranding Network (WMMSN) that helped support us by stopping by our booth at the 2nd Annual Multi-Faith Alternative Holiday Market! The table filled with fun, educational opportunities for children in our booth was an absolute success. 

On one side of the kids table, a table full of general information about marine mammals and WMMSN was set up, and on the other side there was a table where visitors could view a filmstrip showing the recent rehabilitated harbor seal release by Wolf Hollow, purchase WMMSN T-shirts or make donations.

As an "alternative" holiday market, all the booths were reserved for not-for-profit agencies and the entire event appeared to be a total success as crowds of visitors filled the Community Center at Bloedel Donovan Park from the time the event opened right up until it closed - all showing support for our local agencies as the Bellingham Community Chorus performed in the background. Admission to the alternative holiday market, a jar of baby food for donation to the Bellingham Food Bank.

Have you ever wondered what the world would be like if more people decided to give to not-for-profit agencies for the holidays?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Vancouver Aquarium Trip

Members of the Whatcom Marine Mammal Stranding Network were recently invited for a behind the scenes visit to Canada's largest aquarium, The Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre is the premier marine mammal facility on the west coast of Canada, with expertise in marine mammal care.

Here's some photos and captions shared by Carley Lowe, Co-investigator for
Fur Seal Pup
Beluga with one yellow tooth!
Harbor seal pup in rehab.
Gnawing on the grating, so fun.
"I made friends with 19 seal pups." ~Carley

What a fantastic learning opportunity for the WMMSN members who were able to attend.  A big thank you goes out to Lindsaye and Marty!

Here's some other fun things from the Vancouver Aquariums website:
     *Beluga Cam:  Watch Aurora and her calf
     *Otter Cam:  Watch seaotters Milo and Tanu
     *Learn about the Cetacean Research Program
     *Learn how the aquarium is helping to solve the the puzzle of the disappearing Steller Sea Lions

If you go be prepared for border crossing you must have a valid passport and/or an enhanced driver license (EDL) or enhanced ID card (EID) to confirm your identity and citizenship.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

3 Seals Rehabilitated

As reported by Jane K. Fox for the San Juan Journal, here is the video from the seal release during the visit by some of the members of the Whatcom Marine Mammal Stranding Network (WMMSN) to the Wolf Hollow Wildlife Rehabilitation Center near Friday Harbor on San Juan Island.

Interviews with members of WMMSN are included in this video as they discuss their excitement about the release of these three rehabilitated harbor seals and telling about when the seal, Chitenango, was found stranded along a beach on Lummi Island and first sent to Wolf Hollow for rehabilitation. Follow this link to read the entire story in the San Juan Journal

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Chitenango- rehabilitated and ready for release

Members from our Whatcom Marine Mammal Stranding Network (WMMSN) will be heading to Anacortes to take a Washington State Ferry to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island where we will meet up with members of the San Juan County Marine Mammal Stranding Network for the release of three harbor seals that have been cared for by the Wolf Hollow Wildlife Rehabilitation Center and a tour of the Wolf Hollow facility.

Chitenango, one of the three seals ready for release, was found stranded on Village Point Beach on Lummi Island on July 26th. He was observed by WMMSN stranding response team members for two days. Approximately eight days old and weighing barely 14 pounds, he was dehydrated and thin but without any obvious injuries. It became apparent that he had been abandoned and would not be able to survive without intervention. On July 28th, still growing more thin and dehydrated, he was taken to Wolf Hollow for rehab.

Christi Spangler, of our WMMSN stranding response team, took this picture of Chitenango when he was found stranded on the beach prior to his being sent to rehab at Wolf Hollow.
Rehabilitated and ready to be released back into his natural habitat, he was reported to be 49.8 pounds on October 9th. Let's see if you will be able to recognize him in the video and photos we'll be taking during his release! It is heart warming for us to work with wildlife rehab centers like Wolf Hollow, because we know that without their help, many of the stranded seal pups reported to marine mammal stranding networks would not have this second chance.

What can you do to help? You could make a donation to help support the work we do at the Whatcom Marine Mammal Stranding Network. Just contact Mariann Carrasco, Principal Investigator, at, or by phone at 360-303-3608, and she will help you with that. And, if you are interested in volunteering with the WMMSN, contact Robert Ryerson, Director of Volunteers at 360-306-1568, or by email at and he can get you scheduled for training.

The Wolf Hollow Wildlife Rehabilitaton Center sent us the following summary on the general process of caring for seal pups, including highlights from the stories of the three pups that we will see released:
Seal Release October 22nd, 2009
Lotis, Chitenango and Dragonfly
We are releasing 3 seal pups today. They were brought to us as young pups that had become separated from their mothers. We estimate their age based on the condition of their umbilical cord and how far their teeth have erupted.
General Treatment and Stages
The treatment for all the pups is basically the same. We start by tube feeding them electrolytes to rehydrate them, (and Subcutaneous (SQ) fluids if they are severely dehydrated), then gradually introduce a special high fat formula. They are fed every 4 hours initially. Some need antibiotics to treat infections and have to have wounds cleaned several times a day. They live in individual tubs in our nursery /intensive care area, where their tub is filled up twice a day to allow them to swim and splash around.
Once they are strong enough and wounds or infections have cleared, they are gradually moved out into a small pool. The final stage is a larger, deeper pool where they can swim and dive.
When their condition is stable, their digestive system is working well, and they have teeth, we start to introduce them to fish. At first these are fed by hand, and we sometimes have to push the fish into their mouths. They gradually learn to chase fish and take them from our hand while they are swimming, then to eat fish on their own off the bottom of the pool. Some learn quickly and go through this process rapidly while others take longer to learn.
One of the main ways we track a pup’s progress is to weigh it regularly. Normal birth weight for a Harbor Seal pup is ~20-25 pounds. Many of the pups we receive weigh much less because they have been separated from their mother for several days and are starving. In the wild, they would nurse on high-fat milk and gain about 1-2 pounds per day, reaching weaning weight of 50-60 pounds in 3-6 weeks. The pups we care for take longer to put on weight because they also have to recover from various problems, but once they are eating fish on their own, they can gain several pounds in a week.
When they reach the required weight, we draw a blood sample to make sure that they are healthy. If the results are all clear, the pup is ready for release. On release day we net them from their pools, weigh them one last time, put a numbered tag on their hind flipper and put them in large carriers for transport to the release site.
Here are some notes on the pups we are releasing today. Note – our naming theme for this year is Endangered Species of invertebrates.
History – Found alone on Jackson Beach , San Juan Island on 7/27. Busy beach with people and dogs around pup. Was picked up by San Juan County Marine Mammal Stranding Network and brought to Wolf Hollow late afternoon 7/27.
Condition – Age ~ 9 days, Sex-Female, Weight – 15.5 pounds. Thin, dehydrated. Infected umbilicus, and puncture wounds on flippers.

Treatment – Rehydrated with oral and SQ fluids and gradually introduced to formula.
Antibiotics for infected wounds. Initial treatment for hypoglycemia and hyperthermia.
Progress Notes – some highlights from her progress
7/27 Arrival at Wolf Hollow. Wt 15.5 pounds. Very thin and dehydrated. Initially non-responsive and having tremors. Treated with cool baths and SQ fluids with dextrose. Recovered within a few hours.
7/29 Active and alert. Enjoyed bath. Wounds badly infected.
8/5 First swim in isolation pool.
8/7 Wounds still infected, lab results indicate use of second antibiotic.
8/9 First fish – swallowed easily. Weight – 19.8 pounds.
8/19 Out in pool full time.
8/21 Weight – 22.4 pounds.
8/27 Eating fish on own off bottom of pool.
8/29 Into big pool.
9/11 Weight 32.3 pounds
9/25 Weight 42.3 pounds.
10/9 Weight 48.9 pounds.

Released 10/22/09 – Weight ___

History - First seen alone on Village Point Beach, Lummi Island 7/26. Observed by NW Marine Mammal Stranding Network for 2 days, then brought to Wolf Hollow 7/28.

Condition – Age ~8 days, Sex – Male, Wt. – 14.6 pounds. Dehydrated, very thin. No apparent injuries.

Treatment – Subcutaneous and oral fluids to rehydrate. Gradual introduction of formula.

Progress Notes – Some highlights
7/28 Arrival at Wolf Hollow – Very thin, and dehydrated. Wt – 14.6 pounds. Gave fluids. No meds required.
7/30 Active in bath but gets cold and shivery very quickly.
8/4 Stronger, more playful in bath.
8/7 Digestive problems, lethargic. Changed formula. Gave antibiotic.
8/8 Weight 16.2 pounds.
8/10 Recovered. Gave first fish – swallowed easily.
8/15 First swim in pool.
8/21 Weight 18.3 pounds.
8/26 In pool full time. Eating fish on own off bottom of pool.
9/5 Moved into big pool.
9/11 Weight 30.4 pounds9/25 Weight 44.1 pounds.
10/9 Weight – 49.8 pounds.

Released 10/22/09 - Weight ___

DRAGONFLYHistory – Alone on shore below Downriggers Restaurant in Friday Harbor. Brought to Wolf Hollow by San Juan County Marine Mammal Stranding Network 7/31.

Condition – – Age ~8 days, Sex – Female, Wt. – 16.4 pounds. Dehydrated and very thin. Infected puncture wounds.

Treatment – Subcutaneous and oral fluids to rehydrate. Gradual introduction to formula.
Antibiotic for infected wounds.

Progress Notes – Some highlights.
7/31 Arrival at Wolf Hollow – thin, dehydrated, lethargic. Wt – 16.4 pounds.
8/3 More active, but quickly gets cold in bath.
8/7 Lethargic, sticky eyes, wounds still infected. Lab tests indicate use of second antibiotic.
8/9 Recovered, active. First fish – swallowed easily.
8/20 First swim in pool. Weight 18.6 pounds.
8/26 In pool full time.
9/10 Eating fish on own off bottom of pool. Weight 26.8 pounds.
9/25 Weight 38.9 pounds.
10/9 Weight 50.3 pounds.

Released 10/22/2009 - Weight - ___

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Updates - Summer 2009

Well, the summer started off with a bang, albeit a little late. While everyone else was busy in early to mid June, we did not get our first call on seal pups until June 19th. But when we did, we were hit with three at once. Our first (01) was a dead lanugo pup (premie) that rolled up onto a beach at Birch Bay Village and was collected for later examination via necropsy. The second (02) was a young female seal pup that was abandoned by her mother at Semiahmoo. She was transferred to PAWS rehabilitation clinic in Lynnwood by Carley Lowe, our Co-Investigator, with assistance from Joan Clark, one of our volunteer responders. She was recently released back at Semiahmoo by PAWS volunteers (click here - Two Days at the Beach, to see the newsletter article by Kevin Mack, PAWS Wildlife Naturalist, about that event). The third (03) was a dead yearling seal washed ashore at Semiahmoo. No apparent cause of death was noted for that individual. Thanks goes to Carley Lowe for responding to all three of these calls and completing the Level A dataforms on these three seals on the same day!
We also had a seal pup on Cypress Island on June 29, but no one with a boat was available, so the Central Puget Sound MMSN took on that one. In addition, we had a dead seal reported from Point Roberts on the same day. We don’t have any trained volunteer responders at Point Roberts (a need we are trying to fill) so the local firefighter gave us Level A data on that seal but the cause of death could not be determined. The dead seal stayed on that beach for quite some time, so we kept getting calls on it. The NOAA Regional office completed that Level A.
We had trained some new volunteer responders during our brief break. The next live pup (04), was collected from Orcas Island and transferred to one of our volunteers in Bellingham, by a well-meaning, but ill-advised, man who thought the pup was abandoned and opted to bring to us before notifying us (if he had we would have informed him that 1- he should leave the pup there and 2- call San Juan MMSN, as that is in their jurisdiction) on July 5th. That pup was brought to the Northwest Wildlife Rehabilitation Center for stabilization prior to transport to Wolf Hollow Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, but did not survive the night. Lessons can be learned from this incident.
We had another break until July 25, when two calls came in. A seal pup (05) was rescued from kids pouring water on it (not good, as seal pups come to shore to sun themselves and get warm) at Birch Bay after it was clear the mother was not coming back, and was flown to Wolf Hollow for rehab. Thanks to Julie, Rose and Heather for helping on that one. Latest news was that pup is doing fine. Another dead adult seal (06) was reported from Point Roberts, different from the last one, and Peter Hamilton, from Lifeforce, stepped in to send us pictures and level A data. Thanks Peter. The next day, July 26th, a seal pup at the Semiahmoo marina was stuck on a barge near the main walkway, close to where everyone passes by, so the phone was “off the hook”. Luckily we were able, with assistance from marina staff and our volunteer responders (Sonia, Starra, Joan), to get the pup off the barge and into the water where his mother was anxiously awaiting him.
Soon after that, July 28th, we had another seal pup at Semiahmoo stuck in a cistern in the breakwater, but he was able to free himself. On July 29th, though, we finally decided to stop waiting and take action on an abandoned seal pup from Lummi Island (07) , who was transported via boat by one of our responders, Cynthia and her husband, to Wolf Hollow. Thanks to Cynthia (and spouse), Victoria, Claudia, Christi (did I miss anyone?) and any others from Lummi that helped with this pup. You saved him! Latest news was that he is healthy and doing well at Wolf Hollow.
August 3rd was another busy day. A seal pup (08) watch took place, at Semiahmoo by the ferry landing. This one was found fresh dead the next day by the pup sitters (our very own Starra and Katherine) with the likely culprit, a bald eagle sitting nearby, although there were dogs in the area that may have actually done the dirty deed. Also, on the same day, a dead seal pup (09) was found floating near the breakwater at Semiahmoo. Cause of death was unknown. Thanks Starra and Katherine for your assistance on both these unfortunate pups. Another seal pup (10) was discovered at L dock at Semiahmoo marina also that day, and Starra collected the data on that fresh dead pup. He appeared to have a head injury and a puncture wound, but cause of death was unknown. An additional dead seal pup at Semiahmoo marina was reported the next day by a kayaker but he washed out before we were able to get to him. He was not any of the other pups as those were taken to a landfill by Semiahmoo marina staff the same day as the Level A was completed.
On August 6th, a seal pup from Neptune Beach (12) had clearly been abandoned by its mother and was not doing well. Bob, Jeremy and Krista helped transfer this pup to Wolf Hollow for rehab, where the latest word is that he is doing fine. In Bellingham, a female seal pup (11) did not make it and Carley took a small group of our new volunteers out to the Holly St. bridge over Whatcom Creek to collect level A data on Aug. 10. Cause of death could not be determined.
Another brief break and then hit all at once again. On Aug. 22, a seal pup was reported from near the ferry landing at Semiahmoo. Our pup sitters, consisting of Starra, Katherine and Sonia, watched him for several days but he appeared fine and his mother was around. The next day, a second seal pup joined him on the beach but eventually only one remained. Carley eventually joined the pup sitters and determined that he was fine and we should leave him alone. He went back and joined his mother for good several days later.
On August 26, a dead seal at Squalicum Beach in Bellingham (13) was reported. Carley went to do the level A by herself as no one was available that day to help. He was moderately decomposed, so cause of death could not be determined. On Aug. 30, a dead seal yearling (14) , was reported at Mud Bay at Chuckanut. Leland responded and completed the level A for that seal. Thanks, Leland! Cause of death is unknown, although some predation on the carcass was noted.
On Sept. 2nd, a supposedly dead baby orca was reported floating in the water near Lummi Island. Instead a fresh dead harbor porpoise calf (10) was collected by Claudia just south of Pt. Migley, and a necropsy was eventually performed (Thanks Mike and crew!), where blunt trauma was noted, although cause of death could not be determined.
On Sept. 6th, a seal pup became entangled in some fishing gear at Semiahmoo marina, but was eventually able to free himself. On Sept. 21, Starra completed a level A on a dead seal pup at Semiahmoo (15) that had lacerations under its left flipper as well as cut fingers on that same flipper, likely a propellor strike. On Sept. 25, a report came of an injured seal pup (weaned most likely) at Boulevard Park in Bellingham, but by the time someone could be rounded up to go look at it, a passerby scared it back into the water, never to be seen again (yet). On Sept. 26th, a dead weaned seal pup at Squalicum Beach (16) was reported adjacent to the very decomposed (by now) adult seal that died there the month prior. Cause of death is unknown at this time.
Well, that about wraps it up for now. As more calls come in, expect that this UPDATES page will contain new info on recent developments regarding these same individuals and new ones as well. As you can see, our trained volunteer responders are kept busy this time of year, depending on their availability. If you are interested in becoming a volunteer with our organization, please contact Bob at or at 360-758-4124.

Submitted by,
Mariann Carrasco
Wildlife Biologist
Fisher Consulting Services LLC, Parametrix
Whatcom Marine Mammal Stranding Network Coordinator
P.O. Box 108, Acme, WA 98220
(360)595-2114 hm/wk, (360)303-3608 cell