April 15th: ~84

Sea Lion of the Month

So many of you nominated ~84 for Sea Lion of the Month! This sea lion is also fondly referred to as ~♥ because at certain angles the number looks like a heart. As many of you know by now, the ~ (tilde) symbol means this animal was born and marked at Gillon Point on Agattu Island. This sea lion is a male and when he was marked on June 25, 2013 he weighed about 83 pounds and was almost 4 feet long!

Here you can see ~84 hanging out without his mother. This image was captured on June 15, 2015.

From the remote camera images, we observed ~84 and his mom stayed at his birth site, Gillon Point, only until early July. It’s likely that his mother took him to another site nearby. When females go to sea with their pups, the pup will usually ride on its mother’s back.

We didn’t see them again until they showed up in the remote camera images at a nearby site: Cape Wrangell on Attu Island on October 2, 2013. He was seen regularly at Cape Wrangell for the rest of 2013 and into 2014. We even saw him here during our research cruise in the Aleutian Islands on June 23, 2014! And of course, many of you have been seeing him on remote camera images captured at Cape Wrangell. It seems he likes this spot!

84Interestingly, one of our biologists on the Steller Watch team noticed his mother nursed him until at least May 18, 2015. Juveniles do start foraging for fish at a fairly young age but they will still supplement with their mother’s milk for as long as she will allow. When females stop letting their juveniles nurse, we call this weaning. Have any of you seen him suckling from his mother in the images? If not, this is a good indication that he was weaned so he’s on his own. Females do this so they can have enough energy support their new pup on the way. It’s quite a lot of work to forage for enough fish for yourself and to produce milk for your pup!

Females are able to have a pup every year, which we see quite often, especially in the eastern population. Out here in the Aleutian Islands, we tend to see females stay with their offspring for longer periods of time. Often up to two years and sometimes even up to three years! On occasion, we even see a female nursing both a newborn pup and her juvenile born in the previous year or two. This juvenile is likely weaned shortly after the pup is born since supporting two offspring requires too much energy, or food and foraging time.

Great news: We will now share the stories of two marked sea lions (instead of just one) each month! There has been so much interest to hear the stories of marked sea lions that we need to kick it up a notch. Be sure to check-in on the 1st and 15th of every month to learn about our featured Steller sear lion. As always, you may submit the mark of your nominees to the Sea Lion of the Month forum. Thank you all for your nominations!