By Mina Williams For The Herald
EDMONDS — A harbor seal nicknamed Sandy, originally rescued off a beach in West Seattle in August 2011 and rehabilitated at PAWS in Lynnwood, was found dead recently.
Released in January, the seal was discovered April 1 in more than 50 feet of water by divers in the Emerald Sea Dive Club who regularly volunteer to clean up Edmonds beaches below the water. Sandy was found entangled in derelict fishing line.
She was the second harbor seal to die this year because of the abandoned fishing gear. Another was found in a net in Hood Canal shortly after its release.
The divers were working in Edmonds waters where tires have been sunk to provide a habitat for fish. Cast lines get caught, and fishermen cut the lures and lines to free the poles. Those lines move with the tides, so divers volunteer to remove them from the water.
“They knew she was a rescued pup when he saw the flipper tags,” said Robin Lindsey, co-founder of the Seal Sitters network. “It’s just tragic that this seal ended up at the bottom of the Sound. So many people put love and energy into her. She had every chance in the world to survive.”
Sandy was one of the special few to have secured one of the 10 spots at PAWS, Lindsey said. Rehab seals are accepted based upon which ones are most likely to succeed. PAWS and Wolf Harbor Wildlife Center, at Friday Harbor in the San Juan Islands, are the only marine mammal rehabilitation centers in Washington state.
Since her release, Sandy was tracked by scientists using a satellite transmitter that had been also attached to her. Sandy’s movements were visible through a website that had a map of her “ping” sights, the last being March 27. She had more than 600 followers, some of whom contributed to her return to Puget Sound, who received daily emails about her travels.
“She was really traveling like crazy,” Lindsey said.
Released at a harbor seal rookery in South Puget Sound, Sandy traveled from Olympia to the San Juans. She circled Vashon Island and visited Edmonds a couple of times. She appeared to be thriving.
It is unclear how Sandy originally hauled up on the beach as a severely underweight 3-week-old pup. Lindsey suspects that something happened to the mother.
People who find a seal on the beach are asked leave the seal alone and report its location to the Edmonds Seal Sitters at 425-327-3336. Volunteers will arrive at the beach, cordon off a 100-yard area for the seal to keep it safe and undisturbed.
The seal will be watched overnight or until it returns to the water.