All eyes are focused on a large, plastic dog kennel. No one dares to blink. On this crisp January morning, the wildlife team at PAWS is about to say goodbye to patient #11-2225.
The kennel rocks slightly in the sand as a team member leans down and opens the door. The patient wiggles forward and pauses just a few feet beyond the open door of the kennel. Looking left and right, she inspects both us and her new surroundings. She’s a plump, six month old seal pup, and the 20-yard stretch to the water’s edge is nothing compared to the journey that brought her to PAWS.
In August, a dedicated group of rescue volunteers found this Harbor Seal on a beach in West Seattle. Emaciated, exhausted, and only a few weeks old, she had perhaps a day or two left to live. Fortunately, they knew where to turn for help.
The pup was delivered to PAWS on August 15. In addition to her emaciation, the pup was badly dehydrated and had puncture wounds on her neck and flippers, which were infected. PAWS wildlife veterinarians and rehabilitators cleaned the wounds and administered fluids, antibiotics and vitamins to stabilize her. Within a few days, she was stable and gaining weight on a diet of liquefied fish fed to her through a tube. After gaining some strength, she was able to eat whole fish on her own. Over the next eight months, she recovered in a large pool on the PAWS campus under the watchful eyes of the rehabilitators.
The seal in the tide pool this morning is a completely different animal than the one admitted to PAWS in August. Thanks to the expert care of the PAWS staff, and the generous support from our members and donors, she’s now healthy and full of life.
On this morning, she pulls herself into the water wearing a small satellite tracking device that will allow scientists and researchers to follow her progress in the wild. She’ll be a teacher for us, helping us to learn more about this incredible species, and how we can help keep them safe.
Above: During much of her stay at PAWS, the seal was housed in a large, filtered pool. There she honed her swimming and fishing skills.