Perhaps we resembled kindly grandparents. Or perhaps the distance around our boat was just right to safely challenge a young harbour seal. Whatever the reason, we were delighted that out of half a dozen boats anchored in the bay that day, Momma Seal chose ours for her pup’s swimming lesson. (Click on the photos to enlarge them.)
Like so many mothers, she showed immense patience – slowly leading the pup on a wide circle around us, giving it a push when it strayed off course or too close to our boat. The little one was probably only a few weeks old, and still an ungainly swimmer, particularly when it surfaced for air – struggling to get its nose out of the water and floundering behind Mom until it regained its balance.
Pacific harbour seal pups are born on beaches or tidal reefs right through the summer, beginning in late June, and for their first month they depend on their mother’s milk. The moms have only a single pup each year, which is a good thing considering how much these little tykes need to eat – often doubling their weight by the time they’re weaned.
Although pups can swim within hours of their birth, their grace in the water is somewhat lacking – thus the need for swimming lessons. I expect that once they’re mastered that critical skill, the second course in their summer school curriculum is focused on fishing.
A reminder if you’re on Gabriola Island this summer: about a dozen of my marine-focused prints are on display at Gabriola’s popular dockside eatery, Silva Bay Restaurant & Pub. I hope you’ll stop by for a meal and have a look.