Australian Fur Seals are one of our regular sightings, we will find them on rocky outcrops pretty much all year round. These days, our friends the seals are a fully protected species, the estimated population for the Tasmanian and Victorian colonies between 60,000 – 80,000, with approximately 5000 pups born in Tasmanian waters each year.
Mating season is between October – December each year, the males come ashore earlier than the females to establish territories, the females arrive a little later, usually just a day or two before giving birth to a pup, they then mate only 6 – 10 days later. The female seals has “delayed implantation”, which means that although her egg has been fertilized, gestation doesn’t actually begin for up to 4 months to ensure that the pups are born in the summer months. Females give birth usually for the first time between 4 – 6 years of age, pups normally nurse for up to 10 months but have been known to nurse as long as 4 years. With a new pup born each year, female Australian Fur Seals are essentially lactating for the duration their adult life of up to 21 years.
Recovery of the species has been slow, but steady, after almost reaching extinction in the 1800’s when it is estimated that over 200,000 seals were slaughtered over a 30 year period. Seals were easy prey, particularly once they were on land where they’re not able to move quickly; hunted for their fur and blubber (oil), the practice only ceased when the reduction in population made the venture financially unviable.
Some quick facts:
- Females usually outlive the males (male average age 19 years, compared to females 21)
- Males are much larger, the female Australian Fur Seal reaches up to 1.7m long, 112kg, Males up to 2.3m and a whopping 360kg
- They are known as fur seals because they have 2 distinct layers of fur which insulates them against the cold of the water, and keeping them “waterproof”
- They are quite verbal, and social. They will frequently keep divers company for several minutes at a time. Be aware though, they are much less friendly on land as they are more likely to feel threatened.
- They like to eat fish, crayfish, octopus, squid and other crustaceans.