The boys are back in town: peak season for male Australian sea lions

If you think you’ve been seeing a lot of Australian sea lions around the Perth Metropolitan region, you are right! We are in the peak season for male Australian sea lions to haul-out on the islands in the Perth region and forage in the surrounding areas!

Researchers monitor Australian sea lions from a high vantage point on Seal Island

Researchers monitor Australian sea lions from a high vantage point on Seal Island

If you’ve visited Seal or Carnac Island recently, you might have seen two or three of us sitting up on a hill observing Australian sea lions. We set ourselves up at a good distance from the sea lions and stay as quiet and still as possible so that we do not disturb the animals. A pair of binoculars and a 300mm telephoto lens help us collect key information from a distance!

We have been doing regular counts while collecting key information on sea lion abundance and behaviour, as well as photos to test whether sea lions can be identified by their whisker spot patterns. Recently, we’ve been counting up to 33 sea lions on Carnac Island and similar on Seal Island! This keeps us very busy throughout our field research day. Taking whisker photos at the end of the day can be a bit of a challenge sometimes because the sea lions love to lie close together in groups, often ‘hiding’ their muzzles behind other sea lions.

Binoculars and a 300m camera lens are used to watch sea lions from a distance

Binoculars and a 300m camera lens are used to watch sea lions from a distance

It is great to see peoples’ interest and enthusiasm in the sea lions and in visiting them in their natural habitat. Often this great enthusiasm can be overwhelming in that there can be up to 50 or more vessels visiting an island Sea lions come ashore to rest in between foraging trips, where they come to recover and prepare for their next long foraging trip in open water. Maintaining a distance (Department of Parks and Wildlife guidelines indicate a minimum of 5 m) and quietly enjoying viewing them reduces the amount of disturbance that the animals experience, and increases the amount of rest that they obtain so that they can remain fit and healthy.  Sea lions are wild animals that have very strong jaw and big teet – if they feel very threatened they can lunge and bite.  Just remember:  if you don’t disturb them, they won’t disturb you!

Soon the males will begin their journey to find females at the breeding sites.  But before they leave, we will continue to monitor their numbers and collect photographs of as many individuals as possible.  Remember that you can also help by uploading your photos here.

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