(South Whidbey Fire/EMS)

Young seal rescued from stormwater vault on Whidbey Island

The six-week-old pup swam through a 50-foot pipe that led to a drainage system near Mutiny Bay.

An unusual kind of pup was rescued by first responders last Tuesday night.

South Whidbey Fire/EMS responded to a call at about 7:27 p.m. April 27 involving a young, trapped elephant seal near Old Beach Road.

Island County Sheriffs deputies, Langley police and a representative of the Orca Network also responded to the call.

The six-week-old seal, identified as “Elwood” by the Orca Network, managed to swim through a large pipe at least 50 feet in length that led to the vault for a stormwater drainage system of a nearby condominium complex in the Mutiny Bay area, according to South Whidbey Fire/EMS.

Young Elwood was not able to retreat and treaded water in the vault for an estimated six to eight hours. He was discovered by a resident of the condominiums who heard unusual splashing and noises of desperation and contacted first responders.

The fire department began the rescue by hoisting down a ladder for Elwood to rest against. Next, a cargo net was maneuvered around the seal. Using the net, he was carried back to the shore on a stretcher. He was unable to swim away because of exhaustion.

Firefighters used a net to hoist Elwood out of the stormwater vault. (South Whidbey Fire/EMS)

A veterinarian from the mainland arrived on scene to check on Elwood, who was bundled in towels and placed in the bed of a truck.

Garry Heinrich, the investigator and volunteer coordinator for the Central Puget Sound Marine Mammal Stranding Network, said fluids were administered to the seal to stave off dehydration.

Heinrich, who is familiar with the young seal’s antics, said Elwood was found sitting on someone’s deck a few days ago. He has been “cruising” around Mutiny Bay, where he was born in mid-March to Ellie, the elephant seal matriarch who has given birth to a handful of pups over the years.

The last Heinrich heard, Elwood was resting on the beach after his latest adventure Tuesday night. He was tagged on his tail flipper so investigators can keep track of his movements.

“He seems fine, just tired,” Heinrich said.

Marine mammals, when found on the beach, should not be disturbed. Right now elephant seals are going through a molting period, but Heinrich said it is nothing to be concerned about.

Although he is still considered a pup, Elwood is 200 pounds and nearly four and a half feet long.

“He’s so darn cute,” Heinrich said.

Due to exhaustion, Elway was unable to swim right away. (South Whidbey Fire/EMS)

There are currently a few theories floating around out there about why Elwood decided to “cruise” into the pipe.

“He must have been meandering about and found a hole,” Heinrich said.

South Whidbey Fire/EMS Deputy Chief of Operations and Safety Terry Ney said he had heard theories that there was an orca just off the beach that Elwood may have been escaping from.

Gaylon Whiteside, a resident of the condo who watched Elwood’s rescue, wondered aloud if maybe the seal saw a fish and decided to follow it into the pipe.

Whiteside said he was amazed by the first responders’ efforts to save Elwood from the water vault. He noted one of the firefighters was holding the seal “like he was holding a child.”

“I suspect some people might think this might be a waste of time, but we have to take care of nature because nature takes care of us,” Whiteside said.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Photo by Kira Erickson/South Whidbey Record
Freeland resident Kevin Lungren has been commuting to the office using his paddleboard. It's a commute he can do in all seasons and just about any type of weather, except wind.
Whidbey commuter paddleboards his way to work in all seasons

The financial advisor says he’s only fallen off his board twice in the past five years.

Photo by Heather Mayhugh
Stuart Peeples demonstrates how to enter Heather Mayhugh's wheelchair van. In recent months, while navigating the new Mukilteo ferry terminal, Mayhugh has struggled to unload her clients who need access to the restroom.
People with mobility issues find new ferry terminal lacking

Some disabled folks say not enough thought went into improving the Mukilteo facility’s accessibility.

Temporary Lake Stevens Library to open this summer

The location will serve as the Sno-Isle branch until the proposed civic center campus is complete.

$500,000 available for Edmonds nonprofits

Organizations can apply for Edmonds Rescue Plan funds until Aug. 20.

Parts of Snohomish County under weekend heat advisory

Monroe and areas of the county near the Cascades were expected to see highs in the 90s.

Marysville man wins $100,000 in military vaccine lottery

Carmen S., who served in the Vietnam War, claimed his $100,000 cash prize this week.

Tirhas Tesfatsion (GoFundMe) 20210727
State AG says it can’t investigate Lynnwood Jail death

Tirhas Tesfatsion’s family pushed Lynnwood leaders for an independent inquiry. Her death was ruled a suicide.

COVID-19 case reported at crowded Lynnwood council meeting

A person who attended the Monday meeting tested positive for the coronavirus just days later.

Family and friends gather at the waters of the Skykomish River at Eagle Falls in memorial of Devin Shelby Thursday afternoon Index on July 29, 2021. Devin Shelby drowned at Eagle Falls and his body has not been recovered. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
The Skykomish took him. His parents want him to be the last

A year ago, Devin Shelby drowned at Eagle Falls. His body was never found. His family still grieves.

Most Read