Seal Sitters Ask Beach-Goers To Share The Shore

Jan 9, 2013

It's common for people strolling the beaches of Puget Sound to encounter a gray lump that turns out to be a seal pup. It's also common for well-meaning people to want to shoo them back into the water -- but this can do more to harass than help. A band of volunteers is making sure that doesn’t happen. Reporting for EarthFix, Katie Campbell explains.

This young seal pup named Lucy was so thin and sickly looking that she was nearly taken in to a rehab center.
Credit Photo by Katie Campbell / EarthFix

Throngs of newly weaned seal pups have been popping up on West Seattle’s beaches. But it’s no cause for alarm. Pups need time on shore to rest and regulate their body temperature. A pup scared back into the water too soon wastes energy and becomes vulnerable to predators.

Peterson: “Seals spend half of their life on shore. They nurse. They give birth. They rest. So they have as much right to be on the shore as we do. So why not make it a little easier to survive?”

That’s Brenda Peterson. She founded ‘Seal Sitters,’ a group of volunteers from Seattle who are ready at a moment’s notice whenever a seal pup comes ashore.

These volunteers are essentially babysitters for young seals. They cordon off the area around the animals with yellow tape to make sure the pups aren’t harassed. Then they sit back on lawn chairs and keep vigil from about a 100 yards. They train their binoculars on the pup’s every move.

People of all ages volunteer with Seal Sitters. Eleven-year-old Etienne Reche-Ley has been seal-sitting for four years.

Reche-Ley: “When they come up and you see them on the shore, they are just resting. That’s what we call hauling out. If they’re a pup it’s usually when their mother is going fishing for them. They are really great, they’re amazing seals.”

Volunteers watch out for seals year round on Seattle area beaches. Seal birthing in Puget Sound begins again in June.

Copyright 2013 Northwest Public Radio