Weaners, assemble!

As we discussed in a post last season (https://sealbehaviour.wordpress.com/2012/12/03), it’s around this time of the breeding season that many of the mothers come to the end of lactation and wean their pups. This results in lots of weaned pups roaming around together in ‘gangs’ (pictured).

The first band of weaned pups

The first band of weaned pups

These weaners were pictured at a site that still has lots of pups of all ages, but at our other site many of the pups are all approximately the same age, and the majority are a week or so from weaning. That means that around a week from now, there’s likely to be a lot of females weaning their pups and leaving the beach at around the same time.

When this happens the study site will be more hectic than ever. If last year is anything to go by, many of the males that we’ve been watching will be stirred into a frenzy, chasing off and fighting with rival males whilst trying to mate with the females before they leave the beach. Fortunately for the weaners, they’re generally found away from the action, and will remain on the beach for up to a couple of weeks before following the adults out to sea.

We’ve now seen around 100 ‘known’ males over the two sites, which make up around 60% of the males that we’ve been monitoring. These ‘known’ males are individuals that have been seen in at least one of the previous two breeding seasons. Considering the large expanse of beach available, it’s interesting that so many individuals have been found in such similar locations over the three years of this study. It’s also intriguing to wonder what brings them back to the same location (as there are very few landmarks for navigation) and what the implications might be of the same individuals (both males and females) coming back to the same patch of beach year on year.

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