August 29, 2011

Marine Mammal Center Releases 4 Harbor Seal Pups . . .

On Friday, August 12, 2011, I received an early morning call from Marine Mammal Center volunteer Phil Warren inviting me to witness the release of four harbor seal pups. I wasn't able to attend the release but Phil generously sent the following narrative of the day's event. 

All of the photographs were taken by Tami Pearson, a Marine Mammal Center volunteer.

The 4 harbor seal pups released were:
Antonio (m), admitted 4/30/11, rescued at the mouth of Estero San Antonio near Dillon Beach
Yorkshina Pudding (f), admitted 5/1/11, rescued at Pudding Creek Beach in Mendocino County
Sulis (f), admitted 6/7/11, rescued at Carmel River State Beach in Monterey County   and
Zoeroo (m), admitted 6/20/11, rescued in Point Lobos State Reserve in Monterey County

All the pups had been separated from their mom and were anywhere from a few days old to a few weeks old when rescued. Moms abandon pups for a variety of reasons. Sometimes first time moms give birth away from a rookery and don’t quite know what to do with the pup. In other cases, pups may be parked on the beach while mom feeds and people and/or dogs may deter mom from picking up the pup.  Antonio and Yorkshina Pudding spent longer than usual at The Marine Mammal Center because they didn’t seem to get the hang of eating fish as quickly as others. Prior to release, each pup has to pass ‘fish school’, demonstrating that it has the ability to catch and eat live fish.

Harbor seals gather in rookery areas, like the rookery at the end of the Russian River. When not in the rookery area, they tend to be more solitary. When pups are released, some of them seem to hang out with each other for a while and others just swim away without looking back. I don’t think the release bonding lasts very long and evidence from satellite tagged pups indicate that they quickly go their separate ways.

The colored plastic “caps” are for visual identification only.  They also have numbered orange tags on their rear flippers. Occasionally we put satellite transmitters on the pups, but they cost several thousand dollars and are not recoverable.  The “caps” and satellite transmitters fall off when the seals molt, the flipper tags are permanent. 

When the general public encounters a marine mammal, the proper course of action is to observe from afar. If it appears that the animal is sick or injured, gather as much information as possible about the animal and its location and call the Marine Mammal Center (415-289-SEAL). We have trained volunteers all along 600 miles of California coastline prepared to respond to evaluate and, if necessary, rescue the animal. AND…bring your family and friends to visit the Center in the Marin Headlands (Sausalito), open 7 days a week, 10AM-5PM. 

A tremendous heartfelt thank you to Phil and Jean Warren for their devoted rescue efforts of our sick and injured Sonoma Coast marine mammals, and for keeping me up to date about the critters and the goings-on over at The Marine Mammal Center.

A huge thank you to Tami Peterson for giving me permission to post her poignant photographs. They tell a beautiful story beyond what words can express.

And to all of the volunteers at The Marine Mammal Center ~ thank you, thank you, thank you for all you do!

Click here for more information about The Marine Mammal Center

This post is dedicated to the memory of King Neptune.
RIP big guy . . .

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