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Fur Seal Pup Rescued on N. Oregon Coast Headed for Happy Ending

Published 05/16/2020 at 5:44 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Fur Seal Pup Rescued on N. Oregon Coast, Headed for Happy Ending

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(Rockaway Beach, Oregon) – A young Guadalupe fur seal caused a bit of a stir on the now-empty Oregon coast this week, as they seem to do a couple of times a year in recent years. They so far have not been common to the Oregon or Washington coast, but Seaside Aquarium has been reporting increasing numbers since about 2015. (All photos courtesy Tiffany Boothe, Seaside Aquarium).

Tiffany Boothe of Seaside Aquarium said the fur seal was first reported in Rockaway Beach on May 9. Then it quickly left the beach. On May 13, someone spotted it again in the Cannon Beach area, and Seaside Aquarium was called to respond, as is part of their capacity in the Marine Mammal Stranding Network for this area and the south Washington coast.

“We expected that we would be seeing our first harbor seal pup of the season but instead we were surprised with a young Guadalupe fur seal,” Boothe said. “The fur seal was very tired and appeared to be dehydrated. Usually with pinnipeds (seals and sea lions) on the Oregon coast, the policy is not to pick them up or do rehabilitation. But with Guadaulpe fur seals, since their population is estimated to be only around 32,000 individuals, special exceptions are made for this species."

Boothe said other pinnipeds like harbor seals and sea lions have firmly robust populations on the Oregon and Washington coast, so the official policy is to let nature takes its course to ensure a healthy population.

“Once given the green light by NOAA because of the animal's weakened condition we were easily able to capture it and get it into a large kennel,” Boothe said.

From there the fur seal was transferred to Casey Mclean of SR3 Sealife Response, a Seattle group that helps rescue and rehabilitate sea animals in the Pacific Northwest. He then took it to a facility in Gig Harbor, Washington.

“The fur seal is still in Gig Harbor at World Vets and is doing very well,” Boothe said. “We were told this afternoon that it is quite spunky.”

It will soon be flown to the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, California, where it will stay until it is healthy enough to be released back into the wild.

Guadalupe fur seals are not common up around the Oregon coast and in fact normally live in warmer waters, with a range of Guadalupe to California. Yet for some reason Seaside Aquarium has seen about ten of them in the last year or so, according to manager Keith Chandler. Not all were alive.

It seems the Guadalupe fur seals are traveling northward as they follow warm water currents far offshore, something that puts them in danger as these currents run out around the Oregon border and the water turns cold again.

Early last year, a Guadalupe fur seal was discovered with a rope tied tightly around its neck. A crew from Seaside Aquarium tried to extricate the creature but it slipped away and dashed off into the ocean. It was then that they were rather famously looking for a “runaway fur seal.”

The rope had been there for awhile and was starting to cause severe wounds. It was eventually caught and aquarium staff were able to free it from the rope.

Another fur seal caused a small media frenzy in the first weeks of 2019, with a video of north coast sheriff’s deputies trying to disentangle it from rope as well. Eventually, it too was caught, sent to California and rehabilitated. That facility tagged it before releasing it and within a few months it was back home in its native waters off South America. More photos below:

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