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 Teamwork Rescues Northern Elephant Seal Pup
Jan and Robin say hello.
Photo ©2007 Trish Mace.
CoastWatchers Diane and Dave Bilderback returned home from their beach walk to a phone message from Beach Ranger Robin Sears, that there was a report of a stranded marine mammal at Horsfall Overlook. Diane and Dave also are volunteers for the Marine Mammal Stranding Network. They were traveling to Coos Bay the next day and decided to investigate Robinís report. A few minutes after arriving at Horsfall Overlook, Robin and Calum Stevenson, South Coast Coordinator Natural Resources, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, appeared in Robinís Beach Ranger truck. They decided to first search the beach for the animal in their truck. Just as they approached the access road, they were surprised to find a living Northern Elephant Seal pup along the side of the main sand road used by ATVís, motor bikes and vehicles to get to the beach.
Calum Stevenson, Robin Sears (hidden), Jan Hodder, Diane Bilderback, Dave Bilderback (hidden).
Photo ©2007 Trish Mace.
An Elephant Seal pup usually nurses for about a month before its mother leaves the pup permanently to go to sea to feed. The pup is on its own and molts before it also goes to sea to feed. This pup had probably been born at Shell Island, Cape Arago and swam to the Horsfall area. It initially was seen up at the Ten Mile Creek area by Trisha Wymore, the Central Coast Beach Ranger. This pup had moved from the beach over the foredune to the sand road. Pups that are molting do not eat and are living off of the fat that they accumulated from their motherís milk. So, it is important that the pup not be disturbed or it will run out of energy and die before it can go to sea to feed.
Robin called Dr. Jan Hodder, Oregon Institute of Marine Biology, who recommended relocating the pup from its stressful location to a more remote part of the beach. She later joined the group bringing a stretcher to lift the pup in and out of the truck. Robin, Calum, Jan, Diane and Dave loaded the pup into the back of the truck. Calum and Dave stayed in the back of the truck with the pup while Robin drove and Diane rode inside. Once on the move, the pup raised its head into the wind just like a dog and made strong hissing/barking sounds. It also tried to put its front flippers up on the side of the truck. After the eight-mile beach ride, the pup slid down the reclined stretcher to a beach free from ATVís and stressful interactions with humans.
Northern Elephant Seal pup, ready to depart for a safer spot.
Photo ©2007 Trish Mace.
Unfortunately, this pup was soon back on an ATV road and had to be moved one more time. Students from the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology, Robin and Calum moved the animal back to the remote beach. Hopefully, it will complete its molting and go back to sea.
For those of you who are interested in becoming a volunteer for the Marine Mammal Stranding Network, there will be two upcoming workshops. These workshops will include a talk/slideshow presentation beginning at approximately 10:00 AM, followed by a practical session to familiarize participants with basic methods of collecting data from live and dead stranded marine mammals. The north coast session will be held in the Auditorium of the Visitorís Center at the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport on Saturday April 14th. The south coast session will be at the OIMB Boathouse Auditorium in Charleston on May 19th.
Contact: Dave Bilderback, Coos County Co-Coordinator, (541) 347-1335