Letters to the editor, Dec. 22 issue

Seals pupping season is a gift to treasure

In the long running debate over the harbor seals at the Children’s
Pool, no one to my knowledge has noted that this harbor seal
population is unique in that it is the only one that is so close to a
major urban center. I have seen harbor seal colonies in Alaska at
South Sawyer Glacier, in Glacier Bay National Park at John’s Hopkins
Glacier, on the Isle of Skye in the Inner Hebrides, in the winter on
Long Island, NY, and in Carpinteria, Calif.

Nowhere else but La Jolla can such close views of pupping harbor seals be seen by so many. Isn’t that an opportunity worth as much protection as we can give it?

Art Cooley, La Jolla


A tip of the hat to Spencer Wilson

In 1950, near the end of Navy boot camp here in San Diego, we had our first day off — “liberty” as it’s called. I bought a newspaper and saw that “American in Paris,” was playing at the Cove Theater in La Jolla. I had no idea where La Jolla was. I’d never heard of the place. I got directions from a bus driver, and managed to find my way to La Jolla. I loved Gene Kelly’s dancing and wanted to see the movie.

Arriving at the theater, I learned the movie had already started, and since there was no way I’d go in and watch a movie after it had started, I walked around La Jolla for about an hour and a half. It was, and still is, the most beautiful place on Earth (for me). I fell in love with La Jolla. It was, as they say, as if I’d died and gone to heaven, especially after three months in boot camp.

During the movie, I also fell in love with Leslie Caron, the actress who danced with Gene Kelly. There was something special, too, about the man who took tickets at the entrance. He had a very noticeable quality about him that stuck in my memory. He was very manly looking … and distinguished. Just his presence made you feel at home there. He looked into your eyes and greeted you with a sincere smile when he took your ticket.

The next time I went to that theater was in 1968, when I came to live in La Jolla after working for a year at a bank in Honolulu. I have an excellent memory. When I went into the theater, I saw this same man. I asked him how long he’d been working there, and he confirmed he was there a long time before 1950. Over the years, I became slightly acquainted with him. I went to the Cove Theater many times. It was a very nice neighborhood movie house, always clean and comfortable, and Mr. Spencer Wilson had a lot to do with that.

After I left banking in 1974, I worked for 22 years at the Empress Hotel over on the next street from the Cove Theater, and I saw Spencer Wilson many times at the Cove Theater. The article on his passing in your paper brought back a lot of pleasant memories. The theater has been gone for several years. When I walk or drive by the place where it was, it’s hard for me to realize it’s not there anymore. It was a landmark. And Mr. Wilson was part of it. It’s impossible to think of the Cove Theater without thinking of this fine man.

Frederick Regenold, La Jolla
Pupping season for harbor seals nears

Many San Diegans will bring out-of-town visitors to The Children’s Pool in La Jolla over the holidays to view the harbor seal colony as they are approaching their pupping season.
Seals gestate for nine months, so you will see very large females moving slowly and beaching more often. There is little signage to indicate the restraints needed at this time, except for a rope strung across the beach intended to give the seals enough space to move freely and keep people at a comfortable distance.

Please listen to the Ranger if he is there and when he is not, refrain from crossing the rope to get close to the seals. They are very sensitive to human presence especially at this time, whether they outwardly show it or not.

Viable pups are usually born between February and April, so the potential mothers need plenty or freedom from stress to rest their bodies and prepare for nursing and raising their newborns over a limited six-week period.

Sharing the beach sometimes means giving it up to the higher need.
Val Sanfilippo

Premature birth rate low for La Jolla seals

This is addressed to the California Coastal Commission contact emails given to me. I was asked to provide some reference information regarding the question of premature birth rates for Pacific harbor seals at the Children’s Pool in La Jolla and the reasons for this.

First of all, 39 percent of all Pacific harbor seal births in a pupping season may be premature (Steiger et al. 1989, Journal of Wildlife Diseases). The rate of Pacific harbor seal premature births at the Children’s Pool has never approached this percentage, which is considered normal for Pacific harbor seal rookeries.

Secondly, premature Pacific harbor seal births happen commonly in maternal females that are young, less than 5 years of age (Bowen et al. 1994, Canadian Journal of Zoology). Maternal female Pacific harbor seals, 4 to 6 years of age with low body mass, most commonly have premature births (Ellis et al. 2000, Journal of Mammalogy).

There have been claims that people are causing Pacific harbor seal premature births at the Children’s Pool in La Jolla. There is no evidence for this as the percentage of premature births in the Pacific harbor seal colony at the Children’s Pool is much lower than the expected normal percentage of almost 40 percent and determining causes for premature birth in Pacific harbor seal rookeries is extremely difficult as there are many, many reasons to consider.

Kent D. Trego, La Jolla

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Posted by Staff on Dec 28, 2011. Filed under News, Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

4 Comments for “Letters to the editor, Dec. 22 issue”

  1. BigDipper

    Cooley wants to give the colony all the protection we can give it. Not what it needs and already has, but all we can imagine. Why not close the sea wall and erect walls so the seals cannot see people and suffer the resultant stress?. Close the stairs forever and ban low flying aircraft in La Jolla as is done in some marine sanctuaries. All on the assumption seals need protection from humans, yet they choose to come here to share this beach.
    The reason not, is we really want to protect our free show and tourist attraction and our convenience. The best unselfish protection for seals would be to disperse the animals to the wild so they can live free of human contact again. Eh?
    Last night I was standing 5' away from an unconcerned seal. In the water they swim to me to play with me like another seal. Some clutch at my arm and keep coming back for tummy rubs. Should we force our pregnant mates to stay indoors during the last couple months of pregnancy lest they be startled and spontaneously abort like a lizard dropping its tail? Are our pregnant mates taken to hysteria and running into walls and need sequestering?

    • James

      You had me except going to the trouble of dispersing the seals. Seems like a lot of effort when they'll probably just come back (since they always do). But I'm pretty sure the Bird Rock and Camino de la Costa folks are trying to ban low flying helicopters but I'm certain it has nothing to do with the seals.

  2. cyberKICK

    Val Sanfilippo, how do you know the seals are sensitive of people "whether they outwardly show it or not"? If the seals are so sensitive of people why do they follow the swimmers around in the water and use a beach shared with people? They have so many miles of coastline they can use with no people (and many seals do), In fact, I've been there when I was the only person on the beach with no seals on the beach, and they came out of the water and sat down less than 3' from me. Why would they do that on an entirely empty beach? Maybe they aren't sensitive of the people on the beach, but rather the people screaming from the wall and bluff. Maybe they are sensitive to all the hostilitiy of the seal activiits.

    • James

      That might be the most honest comment on the Children's Pool I've ever read! Thank you for not trying to use shark hysteria or making up statistics! I don't see anything in there I can argue with. I wish all comments would be so sensible.

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