Yesterday I had the pleasure of covering a friend's seal shift. It ended up being a 14 hour day so, of course, I was nothing short of delighted. The highlight was Luka, my second harbor seal rescue of the season.
Harbor seal rescues are, by definition, heart wrenching. Because harbor pups are routinely left on the beach while mom forages, we tend to avoid abducting them until we're absolutely certain they're abandoned. Even so, when you leave the seal overnight, you wonder if mom really is coming back or if you've just left the pup at the mercy of the rising tide. When you pick them up, you feel like a kidnapper, ruthlessly tearing a pup away from his mom. The harbor pup vocalization ("ma, ma") only amplifies any feelings of guilt.
Luka's rescue was another story. She was lucky enough to be born at Pirate's Cove, our nudist beach, probably just about 10 days ago (which we know because her umbilicus has only recently fallen off). The naked people there are quite familiar with the harbor seal routine and so they waited to report Luka until she'd already been on the beach a couple days.
The first rescue team checked on her Wednesday. She was skinny and dry, but vocal and still energetic enough to return to the water on her own. Thinking they'd get to see her reunite with mom, they stuck around to observe. Instead, to their horror, they watched as the adult harbor seals rebuffed poor Luka, slapping her, biting her, and keeping her off the rocks. Still, once a seal is in the water, she's no longer stranded, so all they could do was go home.
I went trolling for her the next morning, which I guess is not technically trolling since she was officially on watch and it is policy to go check the next day. It just felt like trolling because I so very much wanted to pick her up. As expected, I found our little pariah pup, all outcast and alone on shore while the other moms and pups played in the shallows nearby. One of the not-yet-naked regulars confirmed that she was the same seal they'd been watching for days so I felt even more confident in my decision to abduct her.
I tried to wait and share my rescue with my helpful Thursday crew. Luka, however, had other plans and decided she was more afraid of me than the mean adult seals in the water. So I had to prevent her escape and carry her off the beach in my arms. When I needed help at the base of the steep trail I had to wait for the second person to come along. The first not-yet-naked guy to arrive did not approve of my agenda. He felt I should let nature take its course, even if that meant watching this pup slowly starve to death...
Luka ended up weighing only 6.7 kg (1.3 kg less than the much younger Melissa) - further evidence she was a good pick up. And unlike Melissa, her midnight feed went flawlessly. Just a mild case of the hiccups and a modest, runny stool sample. Such a relief.
Anyway, today (my real seal day) was relatively quiet but equally charmed. I checked on an otter we don't want to pick up and left signs to warn people to stay away. Of course signs always tend to draw attention to the animals on watch, but whatever... After that I snuck in a trip to the grocery store and a stop at Subway. There I had a chance to chat up the owner (who apparently wants to become a volunteer) and he refused to let me pay for my lunch. After that I got to see a green elephant sea, covered in algae and barnacles and ready to molt. I'm still kicking myself for not bringing my camera. On the way home, I bought groovy new blue boots for my impending trip to work with the seals in Sausalito. Best of all, I found a piece of yellow sea glass during my sunset walk. In my ten years of glass hunting, I have never found a speck of yellow. Even kitty dinner time passed with little drama, which is great as I am still bitter over this gigantic bruise the black one gave me a couple days ago. I know it was just a lucky shot too close to a vein. It doesn't even hurt, though it did when it happened. Still, it just seems wrong. Cats should not stab the arm that feeds them, you know?
An Easter Miracle
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