The end of May, the beginning of June is the time, when harbor sela of he Commander Islands have their first pups. Harbor seal of antur is a Far-East subspecies of the common seal. The islands are home for about a half of the Russian population of these animals. During this period we can find up to 500 young animals on the rookeries.
The numbers of the harbor seals of the Commander Islands, which are also called Stejneger seals, is about 3500 individuals. The majority of their pups is born from end of May till mid-June. However, individual cases of a pup being born is August are also registered.
“The harbor seal is a species, which bear their pups on land unlike larga or bearded seal. The pups first appear on snow, that is why they have white fur right after the birth. It is a way to merge with the landscape and avoid attacks of the carnivorous species”, said Deputy Director for Science Evgeny Mamaev.
The pups are born on the reefs during a low tide. After 5 or 6 hours the mother and the pup enter the coming waters, swim around and wait for a new low tide to lie on the reefs again. Within this time the female has the time to feed the pup with milk. Lactation continues for one and a half month. After that the young animal will have its adult nourishment.
It is interesting that up to a quarter of Stejneger seals are born with white fur, though others are born with the characteristic spotted fur. White fur makes them look like white-coated cubs of larga seal, which may make the identification difficult, if you focus on new born pups fur color. In fact, the larga seal is very rare here and prefers rookeries on Kuril Islands.
Harbor seal is included in the Red Data Book of Russia and Kamchatka. In the 60s of the XXth century a number of scientists, including zoologist Alexey Belkin, proposed to classify the harbor seal as a separate species. However, the later research showed that the harbor seal is a subspecies of the common seal.
Russian population of the harbor seal is under 7000 individuals. About 3000 Stejneger seals live on Kuril Islands, 500 – on Kamchatka peninsula and 3500 animals on the Commander Islands.
The Commander Islands Nature and Biosphere Reserve Press-Service