by Katherine Hawk | Jan 10, 2022 | 0 comments

Weddell seal and pup
Weddell seal and pup. Photo © Dreamstime.com.

A seal pup struggles to raise himself up and looks for his mother. He is only one day old, but his senses of sight and smell are keen. There are many Weddell seals like him on the beach, some a few days old and some born just that day.

Pup is hungry, and he lets his mother know, “Yelp, yelp, yelp!” She recognizes his call and barks back to say she’ll be there shortly. In a few minutes Pup is nursing contentedly, taking big gulps of warm, thick milk.

It is less than a week later, but Pup is already much larger. His mother’s milk is mostly fat, and it doesn’t take long to grow on that diet. He wriggles about in the snow and butts his mother playfully. She endures it patiently the first few minutes, then barks sharply at him to be still, so Pup has to content himself with batting at his own tail.

Pup is two weeks old. He moves around freely and eats little bits and pieces of fish his mother brings him. Now that he is older, she often goes on fishing trips, sometimes staying away for two or three days, but Pup doesn’t mind. He likes the tasty morsels his mother brings back, and, in the meantime, he can live on his fat. Pup plays with the other pups and swims around in shallow water.

It’s a month later. Pup is playing with other youngsters on the rocks by the sea. He has lost much of the fluffy, silky baby fur he was born with, and he has started to grow the thick, coarse coat of adult seals. They’re all big now, but Pup is the largest and so almost always has his way in the games. They cuff and swat at each other, with an occasional bite if the game gets too heated. Along with most of the other females, Pup’s mother has gone on a hunting trip. She has been away for almost two weeks, but Pup is used to it. He has enough blubber to last him for a long time. The pups swim around and play until sunset, when they all stretch out on the rocks and fall asleep.

The next morning Pup is awakened by a commotion near him. The mothers have been sighted, and hungry pups await their arrival none too quietly. As each pup is reunited with its mother, the noise is deafening—chirps and chugs, grunts and growls, rasps and rattles, warbles and whistles. Pup is glad to see his mother, but he is gladder still to see the large juicy piece of penguin meat she has brought him.

In a few months he will be big enough to go on the hunts himself. Then he won’t be Pup anymore. He will be a juvenile and join a community of young males, but that is all in the future. Now he is lying on his rock. Who knows what the next day will bring? Pup doesn’t, and he doesn’t really care. Hs is content to lie there, his belly full of meat and thick milk, listening to his mother’s gentle breathing as he slowly falls asleep.

Weddell seal and pup
Weddell seal and pup. Photo © Dreamstime.com.

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