Love is in the Air: Start of sea lion breeding season!

End of the Australian sea lion fieldwork season

If you have been out and about the Perth coastal area recently, you might have noticed lower numbers of sea lions on the beaches.  That is because the breeding season has kicked off, so many of these males have gone in search of females, leaving only a few confused juveniles behind!

Now that the Australia sea lion mating season is underway, many of the male animals have left Seal and Carnac Island and started their migration to the breeding grounds. This means the end of our field season, but we have collected a lot of data over the past two years so it is pretty exciting to begin analysis and see what the results will show! However, be patient – we have quite a bit of number-crunching to do first!

Opportunistic photos will continue for Australian sea lions

Opportunistic photos will continue for Australian sea lions

We will continue to take whisker photos opportunistically during trips out with the Department of Parks and Wildlife (DPaW) to continue monitoring sea lion numbers in the area. These trips mean we can still increase the amount of photos we are taking, so if the whisker ID method works well, we may even be able to see who is making the swim to the breeding locations and who decides to stay here instead.

If you have been out on Seal or Carnac Islands recently, you might have noticed the lower numbers of sea lions hauling out compared to January sightings. We are now getting closer to the breeding season in Jurien Bay, where we believe that the Perth metropolitan males go to look for some females.

Australian sea lions have a breeding cycle of 17-18 months, which is quite unusual for pinnipeds. The females will mate only a few days after giving birth, meaning that pups can be born in any season.

The numbers of sea lions around Perth will still appear to be decreasing over the next couple of months, and there may even be days when none are around on Seal or Carnac Island. But don’t worry – the next peak season for the Perth metro sea lions will be around May to July 2015. They’ll be back!

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