Yesterday afternoon, the Seal Sitters responded to a call about a beached seal at Golden Gardens. The sitters set up a perimeter around the seal, where it stayed until about 10:30 a.m. this morning. According to wildlife photographer and seal sitter Robin Lindsey, it was a female elephant seal going through a “catastrophic molt.”
“The seal will shed all its skin and fur all at once, and it’s a painful process,” Lindsey explained. The sitters set up yellow tape around the seal, and kept a close eye on the seal until it returned to the water.
Lindsey said that while the seal retreated to the water, there’s still a chance she’ll resurface and try to beach herself elsewhere. A marine biologist has set up a cage if she returns to the beach, and will then take her to treat her skin condition.
If you see a seal on the beach, you should call the sitters’ hotline at 905-SEAL (7325). And, if you’re interested in becoming a volunteer seal sitter, you can visit their website.
Update: A catastrophic molt is an annual event for elephant seals, but Lindsey says this molt was “beyond the ordinary.” From Lindsey:
This seal was going through what appeared to be an especially horrific molt with bloody patches of missing skin, etc. Indeed, this was quite a painful ordeal for this seal.
Based on photos provided to experts, on Friday morning the seal was diagnosed with at least a moderate case of Northern Elephant Seal Skin Disease – which can be life-threatening. The plan was to relocate the seal to a safer location, treat the skin with an anti-bacterial topical solution and, hopefully, find a regional facility to treat the animal more long term with antibiotics.
You can read the related story here.