Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Hey, who's that?

Photo by mikebaird 
Years ago I sat on a beach watching my friend Jolyon surf--when a dog poked its head out of the water behind him. It took me a moment to realize that the "dog" was really a seal. I yelled and pointed, but Jolyon couldn't hear me over the sound of the surf and never did turn around to see the companion that trailed along behind him.

When harbor seals are in their element--water--they tend to be very curious. They'll check out boaters as well as surfers, and will swim parallel to people walking along the shoreline. 


When the animal dives, it closes off nostrils and earholes, and its heart rate slows to 10% of its capacity. Blood flow remains strong to the heart and brain, but dawdles to the extremities. A harbor seal can hold its breath for 20 minutes in dives that reach nearly 300 feet below the surface. But most of the time the seal is underwater for just 3 to 5 minutes before popping its head up for a quick look around.


Have you ever watched seals--or had them watch you?

9 comments:

  1. Why, I've watched them swim to my buoys and straight down the rope to my crab pots. Crafty little $$#&%s.

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  2. Ha! Not quite as sweet as watching them make like a puppy on a leash.

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  3. The summer before last I took a trip up the California coast with my parents, and our first morning on the coast we were on the beach watching seals basking on some rocks when one did just what you describe and came swimming over to check us out, popping its head out of the water exactly as in your photo. (We also saw elephant seals and sea otters and humpback whales on that trip - don't know when I'll next make it back to the West Coast but I sure love it!)

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  4. Wow--whadda visit! (Humpback whales = one of my favorites.) 

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  5. Yes, to watching and being watched by seals and sea lions. We participated in a few sea lion rescues on a central coast beach in California. They had a rough year in 2009.

    I see that you are a fan of humpback whales. If you check the Santa Cruz Sentinel online, you'll see some nice pics of a few in Monterey Bay this past week. They are in close to the shoreline dining on anchovies.

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  6. Hey, Robin! I volunteered briefly for the Marine Mammal Center and have a vivid memory of my first seal rescue, which took place on a nude beach. Quite an eye-opener for a kid fresh from Ohio...  I'll check out the Sentinel--always happy to admire whales!

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  7. Mostly, I think it's sea lions I have seen along the Oregon coast.  I love that they have a dock at Newpot just for sea lions.  Fishermen were coming down to the dock and finding that sea Lions had clambered into their boats.  What do you do with a 300 lb critter with four inch long teeth and a bad attitude?  Tell it to shoo?

    But it's much easier to climb onto the sea lion dock than it is to get into the boats, so they pile their honking great carcasses there and bask in the approbation of tha tourists.  Better for everyone.

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  8. I remember a seal following along on a beach walk;  we made eye contact and I did my best to hold a (shouted) conversation with him/her.  They are amazing creatures.

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  9. I thought it was funny that you thought it was a dog. I saw one and thought it was a rock! We were in Friday Harbor, WA watching Orcas from the beach. I was looking at the shore and suddenly realized what I thought was a rock was actually a seal. I figured it was waiting on the beach until the whales were past. It was great!

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