Thursday, November 02, 2006

Riding Seals

So I've finally got a few pictures of us working on the seals. It’s been LONG days, and hard work, but we are finally getting the hang of it. They are big, strong animals, but for the most part incredibly docile. With well over 80% of these seals you can walk within a few meters and they will merely raise their heads and see what is going on. One of the interesting things about these guys is they have really horrible vision above water, and probably do not see us clearly. This is especially apparent in the pups which will crawl up to you, taste your boot before they realize you are not their mother. But I digress. We have processed animals weighing over 500 kilos, that is well over 1200 pounds of muscle, fat and teeth. So, even though these guys are quite calm, they have the potential to be really dangerous. I was thrown through the air a few days ago when one of them got hold of my boot. Luckily I was wearing my huge, thick rubber boots, and the teeth did not penetrate to the flesh. Regardless, it was eye opening to see that with the flick of their neck these moms can toss me like a rag doll. So, to "process" a seal we first capture them using a head-bag and pole net. Much of the time I have been a "head-bagger" meaning I run up and place a bag over the head of the animal, then hop on its back and strap two ropes around the flippers to secure the bag. This works amazingly well, and it is somewhat like riding a bucking bronco when they get going. Once the animal has calmed down we bleed them and inject them with various isotopes. We then pull them up with a tripod and winch to get a weight and release them. On successive recaptures we will milk them and bleed them to measure isotope levels as well as various other indicators, but enough of the science that is not interesting. So here are the pics with brief descriptions of what is happening.
Here Bjorn and I are headbagging a mom, she was a two person job, quite a biter as I recall

once we got her in the bag, it time to strap her flippers down

Trying to contol the seal, easier said than done with a 1100 pound angery mom
Seal in the pole net, getting ready to weigh

seal being winched up, my arm got tired here!

somtimes you just want to do a bit of see-sawing


Chris Pearson said...
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Chris Pearson said...


This stuff is amazing. I am really enjoying reading it. You are making my life feel mundane by comparison. I can't wait to see you when you get back and I get back.

Unknown said...


How exciting! I love these seal pup pictures - I want to kiss these guys on the nose. I sound like a nut:) Stay warm and happy holidays. I'd like to hear more when you return.