Two harbor seal pups were relocated from a West Seattle beach to an island in the south Puget Sound over the weekend after rescue teams noticed passersby insisted on touching and getting close to the animals.
The pups — nicknamed Foxtrot and Tango — had been coming and going from a Duwamish Head beach, “trying to get a much-needed rest,” according to a Wednesday blog post by Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network, a volunteer rescue organization that responds to West Seattle and the Duwamish River.
Seal Sitters responders set up a tape perimeter around the pups to protect them while they were ashore, but, according to the post, people continued crossing the tape and walking onto the beach to get closer to the animals.
“When (responders) checked in the early mornings to see if the animals were on shore, they found commingled seal tracks, human footprints, dog prints, litter and human excrement despite double rows of tape, cones and barriers that had been put across the steps,” the post said.
The organization then started to receive more reports that people were “touching and harassing” the pups.
Seal Sitters added that the Marine Mammal Protection Act prohibits people from disturbing, touching, feeding or moving seal pups and other marine mammals.
Last week, Foxtrot was also found with a fish hook in his mouth, which a local veterinary team removed. The injury wasn’t too serious, the organization said, and he was able to continue living in the wild without rehabilitation — though because the pups were resting so close to fishing piers and a boat dock, responders worried they were vulnerable to further entanglement, the post said.
“Based on the combined threats of fishing gear entanglement and increased harassment from people, the decision was made to relocate them for their safety,” the organization said.
Seal Sitters responders took the pups into their care Sunday afternoon, and brought them to a “secluded” island in the south Puget Sound, the post said. The animals were given health exams, tagged and released back into the water.
In a video posted by World Vets, a Gig Harbor veterinary aid organization that assisted in the relocation, the two furry pups can be seen wriggling off the boat and into the water, before swimming away.
“Seal Sitters is so grateful that the pups could be relocated together in a remote location, far from people,” the post said. “We hope they stay near their new home.”
Robin Lindsey, a Seal Sitters spokesperson, said the group has seen a “significant increase in marine mammal harassment” in the Puget Sound area this year.
“The increase in harassment is likely due to the fact that boat sales — and all watercraft including kayaks and paddle boards — are up dramatically this year since people are finding local recreational activities as opposed to traveling,” Lindsey wrote in a message to The Seattle Times.
She said she wanted to remind people that because harbor seal pupping season is underway in the region, they should remember to stay away from pups and leash their pets while near the beach.
Anyone who sees marine mammals on a West Seattle beach is asked to call Seal Sitters at 206-905-7325. For information on whom to contact for rescues in other areas in Washington, click here.