Los Farallones

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

Meet the Males

You’ve had a chance to read about the human team on SEFI, but what about the seals?  The season is in full swing now so it seems like a good time to introduce some of the island’s most colourful characters- the male elephant seals.  The competitors for supremacy this year are:

Danny- isn’t he gorgeous?

Name: Danny
Age class: SA2
Year tagged: 2016

Danny isn’t showing any signs of competing for supremacy or anything else.  He is usually to be found resting his flippers over on Last Resort and generally staying out of trouble.  Maybe next year, Danny…

Lemmy shows off some fresh battle scars (photo by Taylor Nairn)
Name: Lemmy
Age class: SA2
Year tagged: 2015
Lemmy was tagged on December 28th, shortly after Motörhead’s front man had passed away, so it seemed fitting to name the seal in his honour.  Unlike his namesake, this Lemmy is a quiet character with a strong interest in napping.

11 attacking a cow
Name: ‘11’
Age class: SA2
Year tagged: one day soon
Only tagged seals can be named and we’ve been trying to tag this wily beast for weeks now.  Everyone needs a nemesis and 11 is ours.  He is always starting fights with other males and biting cows, but seems to manage to stay out of harm’s way every time Pete passes by.  Not the most peaceful seal on the beach, but 11 has the makings of a bull to be reckoned with.

Skagit having a well-earned rest
Name: Skagit
Age class: SA3
Year tagged: 2014
Skagit is a sleeper, not a fighter.  It’s a mystery to us how Skagit got his well-developed scar shield, because so far this season he has spent almost the entire time snoring on Marine Terrace.  Perhaps he’s saving his strength for later in the season; he’s certainly managed to save plenty of blubber.

Timmy – large
Name: Timmy
Age class: SA3
Year tagged: 2009
Timmy was born on SEFI in 2009, so he’s 7 now.  The note in our database from when he was tagged simply reads ‘large’.

James bond on the run from Lil’ Nibbler
Name: James Bond
Age class: SA3
Year tagged: 2014

“The name’s Bond” is one thing you won’t hear this guy saying, because, well, he’s a seal.  He is a suave ladies man though, and we can’t conclusively prove that he is not here on Her Majesty’s secret service.

Notch limbers up with some yoga
Name: Notch
Age class: sa4
Year tagged: untagged
Notch is still untagged but he gets his name from a distinctive notch in one of his hind flippers.  He’s one of the biggest seals on the beach and produces a deep, echoing boom when vocalizing, but one look from Pete or Lil’ Nibbler is usually enough to shut him up and send him scooting backwards onto Low Arch Terrace.

Lil’ Nibbler shows off his beach body
Name: Lil’ Nibbler
Age Class: SA4
Year tagged: 2013

There is nothing little about Lil’ Nibbler.  He is a big seal with a well developed proboscis and scar shield, and after a few weeks of fights this season he is looking very serious indeed.  He holds a harem in Mirounga Beach, which has the easiest access to the water of any spot in the colony.  Mirounga Beach is a risky place- four pups have been washed out by the high swells we’ve had this season. One of them survived and made it back to the beach, only to be crushed by Lil’ Nibbler as he charged down to assert himself over some younger males who were attempting to haul out there.

Pete, king of the beach
Name: Pete
Age Class: SA4/Bull
Year tagged: 2013

Pete is not the biggest seal on the beach.  He doesn’t have the heaviest body or the wrinkliest scar shield, but his proboscis is awe-inspiring and he is without a doubt the most ferocious inhabitant of Mirounga Bay.  Pete seems to be dedicated to maintaining dominance over the entire colony, often crossing all the way from Sand Flat to Mirounga Beach to chase the larger and more impressive Lil’ Nibbler into the sea.   When Pet
e is on the move, cows and males alike scramble out of the way and we’ve seen Lil Nibbler sporting ever larger wounds.  We think he and Pete have some bloody night-time battles and Nibbler loses them all.  You really don’t want to mess with Pete.
Holding such a large territory is a risky strategy- Pete expends a lot of energy chasing other males around the beach and the fat reserves he needs to get through the breeding season are shrinking fast.  If his strategy pays off he will father almost all of next year’s pups but if not he could wear himself out and be pushed out by another male before the end of the season. Only time will tell, but for now he is definitely the boss.
Stay tuned to catch more updates about the SEFI winter season!
Written by 2016 SEFI Winter Research Assistant Scarlett Hutchin