First farewells

A human baby is born pretty helpless; small and fragile they will spend the next 18+ years of their life growing up, learning lessons, and experiencing life before setting out on their own….seal pups on the other hand only take 16-18 DAYS and then they are left by mum to figure out the big wide world alone. During that time the go through a pretty impressive transformation; tripling in weight and changing from a fairly floppy weak skinny pup to a big ball of blubber.

Seal pup just a day old.

Seal pup just a day old.

An almost fully grown pup, he/she still has a white coat but is getting pretty chubby!

An almost fully grown pup, he/she still has a white coat but is getting pretty chubby and starting to explore the area.

Throughout the past week and a half, we have logged many hours of observations and 2 in-field ‘personality’ tests on our first mum, Norna, but we were quickly approaching that important day 16 in her pup’s life. Then, when out observing her Monday, we saw that as Norna was finishing up nursing her pup, a male finally was successful in his amorous attempts. Female grey seals typically go into oestrus at day 16, will mate and then head off to sea; so when we saw this happen, we knew if we had any hope of retrieving our heart-rate equipment it was important to re-capture her as soon as possible.

A male and female in the 'mating embrace'

A male and female in the ‘mating embrace’

So, in the pouring rain and howling wind, the team set out for the recapture. The recapture process is also an important part of the long-term monitoring study. By measuring mum’s mass at the start and end of lactation, we can calculate maternal investment in the pup. The whole process went smoothly, the kit was retrieved, and mum and pup were happily left to finish off their time together on the island.

Mum and pup

Mum and pup getting a bit older. When the pup is fully weaned it will lose its fluffy white coat.

Even with one female completed, there is no rest as we have a few new target females for our study, and have plenty left to do on the other 4 females. Hopefully, in the next few days Hayley and I will get to try our hands at the in-field personality test (aka. “Rocky”)…but more to come about that later 🙂


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