Thanks to Cascadia Research for the sealcam enhancements made through an ALEA grant. The camera continues to provide observations and data on the growing numbers of harbor seals on a South Sound seal haulout for the public and for scientists and students working together from Cascadia Research, Western Washington University, NOAA Marine Fisheries, Makah Fisheries and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. The bowling balls that you see through the eyes of the camera, and located a strategic reference points on the beach are part of a photogrammetric mass-estimation technique This technique is considered less intrusive than direct capture to acquire body measurements and weights, and once an animal is photographed, a variety of dimensions may be recorded using this technique. To see how the technique is being applied and to share in some of the sights and sounds of the beach Check out the blog today!
BEAWARE as we are entering the main pupping season predators are scanning the beaches for whatever opportunities they can secure for themselves and their young. Predation can be very difficult to watch and our biologists are attempting to use our camera to record predation impacts to a seal population.
What is a harbor seal haul-out and what are you looking at?
Harbor seals use specific shoreline areas on a regular basis to haul-out of the water and rest. These resting areas are called seal haul-outs and include: beaches, rocky areas, log booms and floats. Some haul-outs are used regularly, while others may be used seasonally or occasionally. Time spent on the haul-out is essential for their survival as they rest, dry out, interact and regulate body their temperature. In addition to resting, Harbor seals give birth to and nurse their pups on the haul-out, and undergo an annual molt of their pelage or fur. This SealCam is focused on a haul-out in the Puget Sound and that is used by harbor seals throughout the year for many of the activities described above. A regular viewer may also see many other species of wildlife including perhaps some other fin-footed marine mammals known as Pinnipeds.
Erin D'Agnese is a Western Washington University graduate student, and has been interning with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Marine Mammal Investigations since 2011. She is collaborating with WDFW biologists on her Master's project to study pup rearing success of female harbor seals at a longterm study site in south Puget Sound. Her research will study how the success of known females relates to age, body mass, pupping experience and pup care behaviors of the mother. Study results may lead to a better understanding of the unique reproductive strategy used by harbor seals and enhance the use of a non-invasive measuring technique on protected marine mammals.
Erin will be using the WDFW SealCam to aid her in this research and will be posting periodic notes from the field on her project and what she is observing at the harbor seal haulout. Check out the blog today!
Currently, the Sealcam has a series of video clips and still photos organized by categories that will help tell you about the life, birth, ecology, diseases and sometimes death of the seals and wildlife that inhabit this fascinating area. As we approach the months of March through June harbor seal presence and activities will intensify leading up to the late June-mid August popping season. The early weeks are challenging for many baby animals, and seals are no exception. During this time period, mortality rates for our harbor seals, according to biologist Dyanna Lambourn, can reach as high as 50 percent. So, as we experiment with camera technology, you are invited to stay tuned and cheer on this year’s young seals as they practice swimming and begin their fight for survival during the critical first months of life in Puget Sound.
Young pups may become separated from their mother and appear “abandoned” on shore, log-booms, rocks or other haul-out sites. The pup’s best chance for survival is to stay in the location where its mother expects it to be upon return. To help ensure the pups’ survival, biologists ask that people stay clear—at least 100 yards away from the animals at all times. If you are concerned about the welfare of any harbor seal, please leave the animal in place, and contact the Northwest Marine Mammal Stranding Network contact for your area at http://www.nwr.noaa.gov/Marine-Mammals/Stranding-Maps.cfm or call 1-800-853-1964.
Please visit the Sealcam frequently and send it to the attention of friend. The Sealcam is also an important tool used by Department biologists to continue to study and add our knowledge of this member of the marine mammal’s order of pinnipedia or wing or fin-footed mammals.
Viewing Seals Responsibly In the Wild
- If you see a seal on the beach, give it room
- Use binoculars or a spotting scope if you want to see the animal "close up".
- The NMFS marine mammal viewing guidelines mandate a minimum approach distance of 100 yards.
- The approach distance will reduce the potential for disturbing or stressing a resting or injured animal.
- Keep pets away. Baby seals can easily fall prey to dogs.
- To avoid possible injury to seals, dogs should be leashed and kept away from seals on the beach. Some diseases are common to both dogs and seals.
- Older seals may bite in self defense.
- People may also be at risk if they come into direct contact with a diseased animal.
- It is a Federal offense to harass seals in any way.
- Please go to Northwest Marine Mammal Stranding Network in Washington to report stranded or injured marine mammals.
Remember: Share the beach and help keep the "wild"