Whidbey Examiner


Seal numbers are strong

November 22, 2012 · Updated 9:13 AM

The Central Puget Sound Marine Mammal Stranding Network asks that people call the network when they spot a stranded marine mammal so that they can send a volunteer out to the site. For live animals, like this seal pup, the network advises and the law requires that people leave it alone. / Sandy Dubpernell photo

It’s that time of year again. Harbor seal pups have left mom to begin foraging on their own, and unfortunately for some of these small, furry creatures their time swimming in the Salish Sea will be short.

The Central Puget Sound Marine Mammal Stranding Network asks that people contact them if they spot a dead seal pup, or any stranded marine mammal, for that matter.

Although funding cuts have reduced the organization’s ability to perform necropsies on all stranded marine mammals, the network would still like to send out a volunteer to photograph the animal and collect data about it.

This will let researchers determine if there are problems with this species or the health of waters surrounding the Puget Sound, said Susan Berta with the stranding network.

In cases where the animal is still alive but in distress, people should call the network — and leave the animal alone.

A recent television broadcast suggested that the seal population around West Seattle is in trouble, but in the waters off Whidbey Island, the number of seal pup deaths during pupping and weaning season has been normal, Berta said.

Numbers can also fluctuate from year to year and higher numbers of deaths one year are usually not cause for alarm unless a trend develops. For example, in 2010 the area saw a higher number of seal pups with a lower number last year, she said.

Higher than normal live seal pups have also been reported, she said.

“The harbor seal pup population in the Salish Sea has been very strong and growing, so I don’t believe there is a real concern, though there are marine mammal diseases showing up in all species more and more,” said Berta.


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