Harbor Seals in Whatcom Creek

Alejandro Acevedo-Gutierrez

Professor, WWU, Biology Department

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Archived video of this presentation.


Since 2011, undergraduate and graduate students from Western Washington University’s Marine Mammal Ecology Lab have systematically collected data on harbor seal occurrence and behavior at Whatcom Creek, in downtown Bellingham, WA.  In this talk, Alejandro will summarize the knowledge they have gained through the collective effort of these students.  Harbor seals visit the site throughout the year; however, most seals appear from October through December, with a peak in November, to prey on returning salmonids.  During 2014-2019, 170 individual harbor seals were identified.  Of these individuals, 96 (56.5%) were observed during more than one year, with one individual being observed at the creek during all six years.  A total of 66 (38.8%) individual seals successfully captured a salmonid at least once and the rate of foraging success varied greatly with a mean value of 13.9 ± SD 24.0% successful salmonid captures per attempt.  Foraging success was best explained by individual identity than by number of visits to the creek.  Such intraspecific variability indicates that not all predators are equal and that some individuals are more successful hunters than others.


Alejandro Acevedo-Gutierrez

Alejandro Acevedo-Gutierrez was born and raised in Mexico City and was a first-generation college student. He attended Texas A&M and was a post-doctoral researcher at the UC, Santa Cruz, studying dolphins and whales. At WWU he is a professor in biology and science education. His research interests include marine mammals in their environment and their interactions with humans. He studies harbor seals and sea lions and is part of WWU's Marine Mammal Ecology Lab

Alejandro Acevedo-Gutierrez with Ethan conducting field study with binoculars

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The Environmental Speaker Series is hosted by the College of the Environment at Western Washington University.

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