Responding to Marine Mammal Strandings

PTMSC Stranding Network Volunteers

Stranding Network Volunteers

Much of the work of the PTMSC Stranding Network is carried out by a corps of trained volunteers. 


measuring seal carcass

When a stranding is reported, a volunteer responder is often sent out to investigate. Photos, measurements, and other information are gathered to help determine if further action is needed.

When an animal is found dead, sometimes responders or staff collect the specimen so that a necropsy (animal autopsy) can be performed.


necropsy assistants

A necropsy is performed to try and identify the cause of death. This may include tests for the presence of diseases and contaminants.

seal necropsy

Volunteers are trained to assist the vet in collecting tissue samples. They take photos and record information during the procedure.

Seal Sitters

seal sitting

Harbor seal pups and occasionally seals or sea lions haul out in public places for extended periods. When contact with humans or pets is likely, volunteers serve as Seal Sitters.

Harbor seal pup

Seal Sitters minimize disturbance to the seal by educating the public and keeping people and dogs a safe distance away.

Beach Survey Volunteers

surveying beach for marine mammals

Volunteers walk stretches of shoreline near known seal or sea lion haul out sites, recording any live or dead marine mammals they see.

This survey will help us learn how many animals are stranding on these shorelines and whether they are all being reported to our stranding network.

How to Become a Stranding Network Volunteer

To get involved with the PTMSC Marine Mammal Stranding Network, contact our volunteer coordinator, Gabriele Sanchez, at


How many marine mammals are reported to PTMSC?

The PTMSC Marine Mammal Stranding Network receives reports from the area from Brinnon to Diamond Pt. WA. Download a map of stranding network regions in Washington State.

The graph below shows a record of total reports received from 2008 to 2012 

Total mammals reported

As this graph indicates, harbor seals, shown in red, are the most commonly reported animal in our area. Not all animals reported were actually stranded.

What kinds of marine mammals are reported to PTMSC?

The following graph shows the number of marine mammals stranded during the same years, this time broken down by species.

Marine mammal species reported

In addition to harbor seal strandings, PTMSC staff and volunteers responded to strandings of two sea lion species, two porpoise species and a northern fur seal, an extremely rare species for this area. Other marine mammal species were reported during this time, but were not stranded.

The "Unknown" category refers to marine mammals that were not identified due to lack of information or severe decomposition.