More about mums

Happy Halloween!! In a break from the male-centered posts, I’ll give a quick update on the mums.

Group of females clustered around a pool of water.

Just 4 days ago there were no females at my sites, but today I arrived to find two groups of females, each with 6-8 girls (and usually one male sleeping nearby). Pregnant females arrive on the colony just prior to giving birth and usually spend a day or two finding/selecting their pupping site. Today, it was apparent that one mum was having a bit of a hard time finding her ideal spot. She crossed back and forth through my study site twice (the width of the site is approximately 200m) before settling down with the group of females on the east end. We won’t know whether that’s the place she’s picked or just a nice place to rest, until she actually gives birth. We do know at other colonies, just like the males, females will return to the exact spot year after year to give birth.

Speaking of giving birth, while not all female grey seals are obvious in their labour behaviours, I watched a mum today who was exhibited some signs that I’ve come to look out for: circling, restlessness, and especially: lifting the pelvic region off the ground in little lifts and strains. If I see these behaviours it usually is a good time to get the camera ready! When the pup was finally born, I was reminded just how incredible it is that in just 15-18 days that little, shivering, skinny pup will quadruple in size and be on its own!

Only born minutes ago, mum looks after her pup. (Photo A. Bishop)

In other news, so far other than the first day the weather has been miraculously mild and the chill in the air is nothing a nice cup of tea back at base can’t remove. Fingers crossed it stays this way for a while!

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