Young seal pup in Edmonds - look but don't touch

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Young seal at rest
Photo by Bill Anderson

I have been to the Edmonds waterfront only once in the past two years - and there was a seal pup on the beach. It was nestled behind a log, almost invisible in the dark. We knew not to touch him. There was some light from adjacent buildings and the ferry terminal, so I was able to scan the water. Sure enough, there was an adult seal bobbing in the water offshore and watching us intently.

Many people think that seal pups on the beach are sick or abandoned and try to help them. I am happy to reprint this article by the Edmonds Seal Sitters from
--Diane Hettrick

Commonly asked questions about the Edmonds Harbor Seal

Edmonds Seal Sitters notes that the young harbor seal that has been hauling out on the Port of Edmonds boat dock adjacent to the Edmonds Fishing Pier continues to fascinate passersby.

Seal Sitters volunteers are monitoring the seal, said the group’s founder, Susan Morrow, who provided the following answers to the most common questions asked by folks who stop to watch the seal.

Why is the seal laying on the boat dock? Is it sick?

This young seal appears to be healthy: it is plump, alert and moves well in and out of the water. Harbor seals haul out of the water every day to rest and regulate their body temperature. Some researchers estimate these seals spend 40 percent of their lives on land.

Will the seal’s mother come back to care for it?

No. This seal has long since separated from its mother, and is feeding itself. Harbor seals are weaned at 4-6 weeks of age, and then the mother seal moves on. We estimate this seal is about 6 months old, so it has been on its own and finding its own food for months.

Is it male or female?

We don’t know. We would have to approach the seal and hold it down for an examination to determine its gender; that intrusion wouldn’t be useful or necessary right now.

I see the seal twitching sometimes. Is it sick?

Seals sneeze, cough, yawn, scratch themselves and hiccup just like people do! A sick seal will be lethargic, thin and immobile, nothing at all like the “Edmonds seal.”

How long will this seal stay here?

This has been a unique situation; usually seals haul out on our beaches, not on our boat docks. The seal appears to feel safe and secure returning to this spot and has been resting here since mid-December (and Port of Edmonds officials have been very understanding and cooperative). However, this young harbor seal will eventually move on, likely for one of two reasons: 1) as seals age, they get more wary of humans and find more remote locations to haul out. Edmonds Seal Sitters has tended to hundreds of young seals the past decade, but has not found an adult seal on the Edmonds waterfront in that time. 2) construction on the Edmonds Fishing Pier is scheduled to start mid-March, and this activity will likely motivate the seal to move on.

This has been an unusual, delightful and safe opportunity to watch a young harbor seal up close. Hundreds of people have stopped to watch the seal, and have learned about marine mammal behavior.

But please remember: These are wild animals. If you come across a seal on the beach, stay at least 100 feet back and let the animal rest undisturbed. Share the shore!

Susan Morrow, Edmonds Seal Sitters, Hotline: 425-327-3336


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