Thursday, January 24, 2013

Pups Still Suckling as Mating Picks Up Steam

It's a busy time on the beaches now....probably the busiest of the whole year. You have the sub-adult males competing with the adult males and alpha males, females of varying ages feeding their pups and trying to keep amorous males at bay, and then there are the pups themselves, Some of whom, have been around for over a month now and have been renamed weaners as their moms have quickly weaned them and taken off to eat. and there you can see a few stragglers born two to three years ago that have chosen to remain on the beaches rather than go fishing.

For the most part you don't see pups interacting with one another, but when one female takes care of multiple pups for whatever reason, you get to see sibling rivalry and affection.

Click here to see pictures of current inhabitants.

The big males are starting to get antsy as females that gave birth early on in the birthing season come into heat. The females are hungry and want to eat but the males want to mate and won't let the females leave until this has been accomplished or, at least attempted. Many males seem inclined to mate with the more compliant younger females before tackling the more opinionated, feisty older 'ladies'. Mating takes place on land or the shallows where the males can get a firm grip on the oftentimes reluctant females.
( In water, the females are far more agile and can easily outswim a male.)

Click here to see photos of males attempting to mate.

All females, but especially the older ones, have quite a few weapons in their arsenal when it comes to fending off amorous males. They can wiggle and squirm making it hard for the male to get a good grip. They can throw sand in his eyes and face. They will bark threateningly or protest loudly. They will even bite or try to bite the neck of the much bigger and stronger male. If a female keeps this up long enough, the male will back down and wait for a more opportune moment.

Click here to see video of males trying to get females to mate.

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