Saturday, January 16, 2010
Just How Do the Moms Protect Their Vulnerable Pups ?
Elephant seal moms are having a extraordinarily hard time this birthing season as the relentless high tides continue to pound the beaches of the central coast of California. ( An unconfirmed report said that as much as 50% of the earliest pups born this season were washed out to sea.)
When the waves come loudly roaring up onto what's left of the already overcrowded small pocket beaches on which some elephant moms have chosen to have their pups, the moms and pups sound the alarm by emitting frantic yelps and barks. With the incoming waves often wreaking chaos amongst the inhabitants of the elephant seal nurseries, frenzied elephant seal moms and pups try to stay together as tempers flare over vanishing safe space.
From what I've observed, the elephant seal moms protect their pups by using their bodies as a barrier by keeping themselves between the incoming water and their pups. They also constantly maneuver themselves and their pups to higher and safer ground, yapping at their pups to follow them. ( Maybe the pups are too heavy at 60-70+lbs to be picked up and moved by the scruff of their necks as a female dog or cat would do to their youngsters.)
The pups themselves also seem to have a natural survival instinct to search out higher ground, whether it be a mound of kelp, a rock, or just the higher beach by the bluff.
Then, there's the ever-protective BIG alpha male keeping a watchful eye on his brood not only trying to keep them safe from the elements but also keeping them unmolested from any hopeful male intruders.
For more photos, click here.