34 C
Mossel Bay
29th February 2024
Nature & Nurture

Cape furs seal facts

A daily occurrence along our coast are Cape Fur Seals. Some people love them and some are not so fond of them as they have a bad reputation with fishermen. Very few days go by without calls received by S.M.A.R.T (Stranded Marine Animal Rescue Team) about “a seal in trouble”. Here are a few facts about our seals that might be helpful in identifying a possible animal in distress.
Cape Fur Seals (Arctocephalus pusillus) are the largest fur seals and have broad heads with pointed snouts that may be flat or upturned slightly. They have external ear flaps with long whiskers. Males can reach 2,4 meters weighing 200-300 kilograms while, the females are smaller at 1.8 and 120 kilos. Adult males are dark grey to brown with a darker mane while females are light brown to grey with a light throat and darker back and belly. Pups, when born, are black and turn to grey after moulting. Their diets consist of 70% fish, 20% squid and 2% crab and they dive for their food as deep as 200 meter and can hold their breath for as long as 7,5 minutes. Their main predators are White Sharks and Orcas. They normally are inquisitive and friendly and often accompany divers or surfers in the water. They breed in the middle of October and pups are born in November and December the following year. A mother and pup form a strong bond through vocalization and smell. Pups are weaned at 4-6 months.
Because Cape Fur Seals are mammals, and although they love spending time in the water, they also love being on land and can spend days on beaches or rocks out of the water. In the water they are very agile and love darting in and out of waves. They can also “sleep” in the water. They do this by laying on their side with one side flipper “holding” on to a back flipper. In this position, known as jugging, the are able to breath as the position keeps the head out of the water. They can spend a long time in this position which many times raise the alert that the seal is entangled. The only time that a seal will be retrieved from a beaches or rocks are:
– when there are severe injuries like open wounds with organs/flesh/bones protruding
– when it is so emaciated that the ribcage can be seen
– when it is entangled in ropes or plastic
– when it poses a danger to beachgoers or visa-versa
Cape Fur Seals are the most common species of fur seals found along our coast and lately we have seen an increase in Subantarctic fur seals as well. Even an Elephant Seal paid Great Brak River a visit last year! Seals may suffer from various diseases and dogs should be kept away from them at all times. They also can be very aggressive on land and a safe distance should be kept. Please do not chase them into the water, rather let them rest until they return to the water at their own time.
Please call S.M.A.R.T at 072 227 4715 when in doubt about the condition of any seals found along our beaches. Responding to a false alarm is always better than to respond to a dead animal on the beach. For removal of seal carcasses from beaches, the Mossel Bay Municipality must be phoned at 044 606 5000.

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