Thanks to a few concerned citizens and volunteers at the Whatcom Marine Mammal Stranding Network (WMMSN), two Birch Bay seal pups are getting a second chance at life.
May through August is pupping season for harbor seals, and a mother will often leave her pup on a beach or exposed rocky reef while she forages for food, coming back at night to nurse it. She will nurse it for a short 3 to 5 weeks with her 48 percent fat rich milk and the pup will gain a considerable amount of weight in this time. Occasionally, a mother will not come back for her pup, and in these cases the pup will starve, unless the proper authorities can intervene.
On July 5th the WMMSN receive a call about a possibly abandoned seal pup in Birch Bay. Though the pup was on the beach near a pier heavily populated with both adults and pups, volunteers watched throughout the day and night, but did not see it’s mother return. The next day they assessed the pup’s health and marked it’s neck with a pink grease pen. Though it appeared thin, it still had energy enough to cry out and attempt to escape the hands of stranding network members. By the seventh the pup had become more dehydrated and the hot summer sun beating down was not helping. The WMMSN decided it was time for this pup to be taken to rehab.
Though the pup did not seem pleased with this decision, it was taken off the beach and San Juan Airlines offered to fly it free of charge to San Juan Island, where it would spend the next couple months at Wolf Hollow Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. The wildlife center named it MonkeyFlower.
The WMMSN receive another call on the 15th about a dead adult seal along with a live pup in front of the Birch Bay restaurant Blue Fish. The pup was only a few days old, as the umbilicus was still present. A necropsy was not performed on the mother, though her teeth were worn down indicating old age, and it appeared she might have died due to birthing complications. The pup, putting up a fuss about being moved, was immediately transported to San Juan Airlines who once again donated plane space to fly the pup to San Juan Island. He has been given the name Dogwood, and he and MonkeyFlower are both thriving at Wolf Hollow. There they will be given proper fluids until they can be weaned onto fish, then they will learn to hunt live fish in a pool. In the fall MonkeyFlower, Dogwood, and all the other pups at Wolf Hollow will be released back into the wild.
The WMMSN operates under the authority of NOAA and the National Marine Fisheries Service. All marine mammals are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and it is illegal to touch or disturb them. NOAA recommends keeping a distance of 100 yards.
If you see a stranded marine mammal, dead or alive, in Whatcom County, do not approach but immediately alert the WMMSN at: 360/966-8845
To make a donation, or become a volunteer, visit www.wmmsn.org