As pupping season advances, seal haulouts are filled not only with mum and pup pairs, but also with various displays from harbour seal males, who are getting ready for mating season. Seals can be often seen ‘porpoising’ and swimming very fast just under the surface, close to the haulout. Seals are also observed splashing the water with their fore flippers, which generates loud sounds, getting the attention of the other seals around. Pairs of seals may be seen rolling together near the surface in a type of gentle play-fight, and individual seals quite often do energetic head swinging back and forth while holding bits of kelp in the mouth. And there is a lot of growling and snorting among seals.
These displays can escalate into more intense fights between seals. A few weeks ago, before the first pups were born, I witnessed a fight between seals at one of the sites. As I was ready to start taking pictures, two seals engaged into a very intense fight just by the water edge, which involved a lot of fore flipper slapping and splashing, rolling, biting, growling, snorting and energetic throwing of kelp. The interaction lasted about 3 or 4 minutes. As you can see in the video below, one of the two seals has a yellow flipper tag in one of her hind flippers. It turns out this is a male we captured earlier in the season. I am afraid he did not choose the winning stick this time… I was very impressed by the intensity of the fight, something I don’t think was shared by the rest of the seals at the haulout, who did not seemed to be very disturbed by all the activity around them.
And a couple of days ago, there was another interesting interaction at the same site by another two seals. This time it was shorter, but preceded by a much longer exchange of growling and snorting, as well as fore flipper slapping of the water.
Written by Monica