Star the seal entertains downtown Port Townsend
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Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News
Star the juvenile elephant seal takes a breather under the deck at Nifty Fifties on Monday morning.

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — Eleven days into his molting process, a juvenile elephant seal dubbed “Star” has become a downtown attraction.

“It was surreal,” said Ben Cook, a barista at Better Living Through Coffee, which is near where the seal has beached itself.

“His eyes would follow you around, and it seemed like he was mugging for the camera,” Cook said. “He didn't seem like he was scared of people at all.”

The juvenile seal arrived on the Adams Street beach May 3. Since that time, he has alternated between that location and another beach just south of Union Wharf.

On Friday night, Star changed his routine, moving onto the area in front of Better Living Through Coffee where the sand meets the pavement, according to Gabriella Ashford, who with her 11-year-old daughter Ella has monitored the seal's progress.

The Ashfords camped out in a van near the seal, attempting to protect Star and inform observers about keeping a proper distance.

Ashford said the seal stayed put throughout Saturday but moved late that evening after a rainstorm delivered water from an adjacent gutter onto the spot where the seal was sleeping.

“That woke me up, too,” Ashford said. “He wasn't happy. He made a lot of noises and moved onto the sidewalk to get out of
the rain.”

He stayed in place until Sunday evening, when he went into the water and returned to the Adams Street beach.

Port Townsend Marine Science Center volunteers are tracking Star's path, stringing up yellow tape around wherever he stops.

AmeriCorps volunteer Danae Presler said it was unusual for molting seals to land in the middle of a town, saying “usually they are on a deserted beach somewhere.”

Presler said all elephant seals molt annually, and do so on land.

“It is rare for them to hole up in places where there is so much public activity,” she said. “People love him, and anyone who gets close to him wants to snap a picture although they are getting closer than what we would prefer.”

Presler said it was possible that Star would hang around downtown and attend next weekend's Rhododendron Festival. But he could just as likely move on.

“There is a lot of extra energy around him now. He may just leave and go somewhere else,” she said.

Presler did not have an age estimate but said Star weighs about 300 pounds and is approximately 5 feet long.

Presler said the molting process could take a month or more.



Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at cbermant@
peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: May 13. 2013 6:26PM
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