Thursday, March 21, 2013

Mainly Weaners

As March draws to a close, the pups which were born this birthing season have since been renamed weaners. ( I don't know who came up with this 'ingenious' terminology at some point in time.) The pups are weaned abruptly from their moms after feeding almost non-stop for about 4 weeks and gaining anywhere from a couple of hundred pounds to even as much as 7 times their original birth weight in this relatively short nursing period. The moms are hungry and eager to get back out to sea to replenish their lost body weight, which means that the newly weaned pups AKA weaners are pretty much left to fend for themselves. However, a few young adult males can still be seen hanging around the beaches maybe to protect these youngsters from immediate harm. After all, coyotes do sometimes traverse the beaches in search of food !

The weaners will remain on the beaches for about another month or so living off the fat-rich milk they ingested from their moms. During this time, they'll practice the art of swimming and diving in protected tide-pools or creeks to build up their muscle strength. Also, the black/brown pup fur will finish shedding and reveal the sleek new silver-gray fur associated with weaners.

Weaners are very chummy and like to talk and physically interact with one another. The males are already starting their practice fights and setting up supremacy ladders. The females are quieter...they don't practice fight like the males. Instead, they do a lot of stretching, fending off male weaners, and sleeping. Weaners do need to sleep a lot in order to preserve their body fat for as long as possible. Sometimes, you can even see weaners testing out the edibility of dry kelp, sticks or other objects lying on the beaches.

Click here to watch a video of weaners enjoying early morning time in a creek.

Eventually, the weaners will decide it's time to start seriously looking for food and start beach-hopping in search of nourishment. During this time, they'll also hone their life-necessary fishing skills. Most weaners will head northward following the trails of the adult elephant seals. Then they'll return again to the vicinity of their birthing beach in the late summer/early fall in a period called the Fall Haul-Out when they'll rest, practice fight, and generally socialize for about a month.

Click here to see more photos of these captivating weaners.

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