We examined the mortality rates and causes of death of harbor seal (Phoca vitulina) pups in three regions of the inland waters of Washington (USA) in 1984. One hundred eight pups were collected during 239 searches of the shoreline areas near harbor seal haulout sites or through public reports. Minimum neonatal (up to 1 mo after birth) mortality rates at these regions ranged from 12% to 26% of the pups born. Neonatal mortality was highest in the Strait of Juan de Fuca; 33 of the estimated 105 (31%) pups born at the primary site died. Causes of death varied by location. In southern Puget Sound predation by coyotes (Canis latrans) was the primary cause of death, accounting for eight of 43 (19%) of the dead pups examined; starvation was the next most common cause of death. Mortality at study sites in the Strait of Juan de Fuca was related to premature parturition; 19 of 49 (39%) of the pups found dead were born prematurely. Nine species of bacteria were identified in samples taken from 42 pups; Proteus sp. and Escherichia coli were the most common.
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Vol. 25 • No. 3