Puget Sound seal pup feared starving finds meal

After being alone and crying for a week, it is nursing from another harbor seal

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SEATTLE — It looks like "let it be" was good advice for a harbor seal pup that cried for days after apparently being left alone on a south Puget Sound beach.

A comparison of photos taken Tuesday and Friday by a photographer for The Olympian shows the pup is likely recently weaned, is in good condition and was seen Friday nursing from another harbor seal that was accompanied by a younger pup, said Jessie Huggins, stranding coordinator for Cascadia Research, a nonprofit marine mammal research organization.

Learning to catch its own food is a stressful time for a young seal, and this approximately 4-week-old youngster likely was unhappy about its weaning, Huggins said.

A National Marine Fisheries Service official said earlier that "rescuing" the pup would be unnatural and could do more harm than good.

Touching the pup would also be illegal, NMFS spokesman Brian Gorman said.

"It really should be a little bit more independent," Gorman said Friday afternoon. "But I think things will turn out fine in a week or two. … It will get in the water and start behaving like a normal harbor seal."

A woman with a waterfront home on south Puget Sound about north miles north of Olympia has been agonizing for a week over the pup that had been alone and crying.

From her home, Brandy Garcia can see a couple of dozen pups who haul out on a former railroad trestle on Henderson Inlet. She saw other mothers feed their pups, but they didn't feed this one.

Garcia sat in her yard Friday and watched the young pup nuzzle and nurse with the adoptive mother and her pup.

Garcia has been watching the pup since last weekend when its cries kept her awake. All the wildlife agencies and rescue centers she contacted told her to let nature take its course.

"This whole process of starting this endeavor was to not let this pup suffer," Garcia told The Olympian. "I'm thrilled he has found comfort."

Susanne Beauregard, director of Thurston County Animal Services, said Thursday her agency could help. But that was before she knew the pup was in the middle of a breeding colony.

"You cannot approach an active birthing area in a watercraft without causing a great deal more harm to the other seals," Beauregard said Friday.

When seal moms leave their babies at weaning time, that's it, Huggins said. "There's no lifelong bond with their young."