Kelp Forest – Harbor Seal
Nature of America
Issue Date: October 1, 2009
City: Monterey, CA
With grace and power, the harbor seal swims through the water. Moving her upper lip in and out, the seal uses her whiskers to sense the vibrations of a nearby fish. Darting through the forest of kelp, the harbor seal overtakes the herring… it is dinner time.
Climbing out onto land, the mother harbor seal locates her pup. The young seal has been nursing for six weeks on its mother’s fat-rich milk, and has doubled in size. He has been able to swim since birth, but rides on his mother’s back when tired. He has reached the age of weaning, and the mother must now teach him to hunt.
The mother seal begins by teaching him to hunt in the tidal pools near the beach. Chasing small fish in the shallows builds the speed and endurance he will need. After several weeks of practice, the young seal is able to stay submerged for 10 minutes and can catch rockfish and squid without mother’s help. He is ready to be on his own.
The harbor seals will not migrate. The young male will stay year-round in the shallows near the kelp forest. The sale of seal products, which almost wiped out his species in the mid-20th century, was banned in 1972 within the U.S. The harbor seal is now rebounding, and with a little luck, the young pup will grow to maturity.