Los Farallones

Dispatches from Point Blue’s field station on the Farallon Islands National Wildlife Refuge

It's a Superweaner!

Most female elephant seals nurse their own pups exclusively until weaning, and are fiercely protective of their pups – with good reason, as the main cause of pup mortality on Sand Flat is being bitten in the head by other cows. However, some cows that lose their pups will adopt orphans and raise them as they would their own. Occasionally, some lucky pups are suckled by two mothers or are adopted by a pupless female after being weaned by their own mother. They are known in the elephant seal world as “double mother suckers”, or “superweaners.” These weanlings can grow to be twice the mass of normal weanlings!
Below is a movie of a superweaner on Sand Flat. The cow, named Robin Robertson, either stole this pup after losing her own, or she may have accidentally switched pups with another cow and ended up with a pup older than her own. He is so old that he has already molted most of his black pup fur, yet he continues to nurse. We have two additional superweaners, both adopted by cows from Mirounga Beach who lost their pups in the mid-January storm.