Saturday, February 11, 2012

Keys to Successful Elephant Seal Mating

Despite their fierce reputation, elephant seal males are, for the most part, quite peaceable except for when it comes to territorial rights and mating.

Click here for recent photos of the current residents at Elephant Seal Land.

Male elephant seal dominance fighting is part of their disposition, and, for the most part, these battles are fought without rancor.

Prior to this birthing/mating season, I've hardly ever seen a truly angry male elephant seal. This year, however, tolerance and patience seem to have been somewhat short on a few occasions.

Click here for video of a some crabby males

Also, since the mating season is in full swing, I thought it a good idea to try to describe with words, photos, and videos what actually leads up to a successful union.

Click here for photos of mating.

Alpha Male or Beachmaster is the term given to the dominant male that 'owns' a certain segment of the beach with all its resident females, pups and weaners. This time of year is an extremely busy one for these large males as they make valiant attempts to mate with ALL of the females of their so-called harem. In between convincing their females to mate, these huge males can be seen galloping madly across the beach staunchly defending 'theirs' from any and all would-be intruding lovers.

Below are some tongue-in-cheek tips that might be handed down from father to son throughout the realms of Elephant Seals.

Advice for a Would-Be Lover

1. Sneak ashore. Hide amongst the females and pups. Don’t draw attention to yourself.

2. You may have to go ashore behind the back of the alpha. Use waves, rocks and other seals as cover.

3. Try to find a quiet female. ( Almost impossible )

4. Quickly try to mount when opportunity arises….but keep and eye and ear open for an irate advancing alpha. Always be prepared to flee. Know where your quickest path back out to sea lies.

5. Wait for alpha to get tired from exertion, then make your move.

Advice for the Alpha Male

1. Keep other males away by patrolling waters and chasing amorous intruders off beach.

2. Allow some large males on peripheries to chase off other would-be lovers. ( Saves your time and energy. )

3. Choose a compliant female. Stay away from feisty females who bite and struggle fiercely to escape. Also watch out for females that gang up on you.

4. Don’t get interrupted by other advancing males.

5. Herd escaping females back to shore.

Click here for mating videos.