It’s pupping season in Monterey Bay! Seals hauled out on the Hopkins Marine Station Beach celebrated Earth Day with five new arrivals, but one was particularly special: Mustard the seal had her first pup!
Back in 2012, researchers at the Marine Mammal Center rescued a pup in San Luis Obispo that had been abandoned by her mother, and they called her “Mustard.”
Mustard was eventually released, and is now one of the resident seals of Monterey Bay.
Currently 5 years old, Mustard the seal had her first pup on Saturday.
Like many modern births, this one was caught on film. You can watch the live birth here:
Healthy pups are already about 20 pounds at birth, and they enter the world knowing how to swim and follow their mothers through the water.
You can often see them practicing their skills in shallow water.
But first-time moms are, well, doing this for the first time, so they don't always get it right. Sadly, Mustard seems to have misplaced her pup, and has spent the past two days trying to find it.
Researchers are asking people in the Monterey area to help by notifying them of any lone pup sightings. Especially if it looks like this one with visible fetal folds, which are the marks that remain from being in the womb.
Mustard can tell hers apart from the other 55 pups that have been born on the Pacific Grove beaches this season by how it sounds and smells.
Although we hope Mustard finds her pup, researchers say it's not uncommon for first-time moms to misplace their offspring. But they learn from the experience, and they get better at mothering as they go.
All the pups will nurse for about a month, during which time they'll double in weight.
Pups will be seen following their moms, riding on their backs and getting a lot of cuddles.
Photo Credit: Jan Witting
Once a pup is weaned, it will stay with the adults, but Mom will no longer show any special interest.
Left to their own devices, the pups band together to form little pup gangs. How juvenile!
Eventually, pups get hungry enough to dive for shrimp and shellfish; and as they get bigger and stronger, they'll learn to fish the kelp beds for themselves.
Whether Mustard finds her pup or gives birth again next year, scientists plan to track her, her pups and her grandpups for years to come. You can follow them and all the other Harbor Seals of Pacific Grove on Facebook!