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!
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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 flowol08@aol.com 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

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