An unusual kind of pup was rescued by first responders 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.
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.
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.”