Seal pups around West Seattle are being spotted less and dying more, according to Seal Sitters, a non-profit that advocates for the animals.

Robin Lindsey with Seal Sitters said Sunday 51 pups were seen in 2011, but only 19 pups have been seen this year. An additional 15 were found dead.

There s something wrong with them and we can t help them, said Lindsey.

Lindsey said the number of dead seal pups is unprecedented since the organization started in 2007, and it is working with biologists to figure out a cause.

When the numbers go down like they are this year, it s a wakeup call, said Brenda Peterson from Seal Sitters.

Early fall is when seal pups are being weaned off their mothers and learn to fish for the first time.

Often, Lindsey said, those pups come on shore to rest on their own. But this year, many of those pups are being seen emaciated with exposed rib cages.

We ve had incredibly thin pups this year, outrageously thin pups, she said.

But there is no explanation. Experts said the seal s food source is reasonably good. It s possible a virus is going through the West Seattle seal population, but until scientists can prove that, a cause of the pup deaths is unknown.

We just don t really have a clue, Lindsey said.

Remember, if you see a seal pup on the beach, leave it alone. It's against federal law to touch, feed, move or harass a marine mammal.

Who to call?

If you see a marine mammal on the beaches from West Seattle (King County) to Kayak Point (Snohomish County) call Seal Sitters hotline at 206-905-7325.

For all other beaches call the NOAA hotline: 1-800-853-1964

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