SURFSIDE — A cold and exhausted little fur seal pup from Baja, Mexico was rescued from south of the Oysterville beach approach by Seaside Aquarium staff on April 23.
Earlier this year, aquarium personnel aided in rescuing another young Guadalupe fur seal, which had been entangled in rope.
Guadalupe fur seals are considered threatened with extinction, currently numbering about 34,000 individuals. Commercial hunting starting in the late 1700s drove the species to the brink, and they disappeared from Southern California waters in 1825. They were twice feared to have gone extinct, first in 1928 and again in 1954, before strict protections started to allow recovery.
Cold, tired pup
The pup rescued on the Long Beach Peninsula last week had hauled itself out onto the beach. It was only about 7-10 pounds, cold, dehydrated, and out of its range. The male pup was easily captured and is being transferred to the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, California for rehab and eventual release.
That’s also where the first of the 2019 Guadalupe fur seals was transferred. It regained strength and has already been released, the aquarium said in an April 24 press release.
“A satellite tag was placed on the animal before releasing it and as of March 27, 2019 the animal was back on Guadalupe Island where it belongs,” aquarium staff said.
Guadalupe fur seals may travel north following warm-water currents but their typical range is from Guatemala to Southern California. They breed exclusively on Guadalupe and the surrounding Islands.
Unlike the pinnipeds (seals and sea lions) that inhabit the coastlines of Oregon and Washington, fur seals do not have a thick layer of blubber to keep them warm. They are equipped with a thick layer of fine fur which prevents heat loss, and by trapping air gives them buoyancy.
Native seal pups
As a general rule, seal pups native to the Pacific Northwest are not in need of rescue when found on local beaches. They are deliberately left onshore so their mothers can go out hunting for fish and shellfish.
Guadalupe fur seals are fairly easy to distinguish from our native seals, in part because the Guadalupe fur seals have obvious external earflaps.
Since 1995 the Seaside Aquarium has been part of the Southern Washington/Northern Oregon Marine Mammal Stranding Network, often responding to situations like this.