Cool Job: Babysitting Seals in Seattle
Wildlife photographer Robin Lindsey, 61, has become a nanny of Seattle's waterfront, taking care of just-weaned (and totally tuckered-out) seal pups.
Photo: Courtesy of Robin Lindsey
Spanky rested along West Seattle's shore for about nine weeks under Lindsey's watchful eye.On seals and shut-eye
"Seals can't swim all day and night like whales—they need to rest. When pups are exhausted and can't swim any farther, they come up to the beach to 'haul out,' but if it's crowded with people picnicking and playing Frisbee, they have nowhere to go. So it's key for people to share the shore."
On discovering her passion
"I was having lunch with friends on Seattle's Alki Beach in 2007 when I saw a mob of maybe 200 people crowding around this baby seal. The next morning, I returned to the beach to see if the pup would be back, and lo and behold, there he was. I named him Spud, and every morning for a week, he popped his head out of the water at 6:08 like clockwork. I didn't know a thing about marine mammals, but after that, I had to help protect them. I cofounded a volunteer nonprofit, Seal Sitters, and now it's a 24/7 commitment."
On scouring the shore
"I want to find a pup before a person or an off-leash dog does—I call it a preemptive strike. During the height of pupping season here, July through October, I'm checking beaches by daylight. As soon as I spot a seal, I set up a barrier to give it a safe haven." (Lindsey also enlists volunteers who educate beachgoers about the pups' needs.)
On making friends
"It's an amazing thing to earn a wild animal's trust. We had Spanky, who hauled out for 60 days straight. And I'll always remember Queen Latifah. Usually the pups are struggling, but like her namesake, she was healthy, beautiful, and robust."
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