Saturday, December 09, 2006

Dead Seal

******Warning, this post contains graphic, and somewhat disturbing photographs*******

Antarctica, for all its beauty is far from an easy place, and even harsher for the wildlife. We have been in the Hutton Cliffs seal colony for over two months now, and watched some pups die, and some adults die. We have seen severely scarred males, who are constantly fighting under the water, and skuas who are here primarily for carrion. Everyone knows that nature is rough, and even though these look like cute, cuddly animals, their lives are far from. Several weeks ago, Rich and I were out on a walk through the colony when we saw a gathering of skuas. This typically means one of two things, first a pup has just been born and they are awaiting the afterbirth, or two; some animal is dead, or about to die. As it is beyond normal birthing season, we expected the later, and that is what we found.

Although we have seen dead seals being fed on by skuas, this was a particularly fascinating, but morbid event. The mom had by all appearances only recently died. The skuas were just starting to peck at her when we arrived. The first thing skuas go for are the eyes. They are soft, and easy to get into, unlike the thick hide which the birds have trouble tearing through.

skua beginning to take out the eyes:

After some time, more and more skuas began to circle the carcass, hoping for their chance at a meal.

In very little time, the eyes were entirely devoid of edible flesh, and the skuas began to search for other opportunities.

It was at this point that Rich and I realized the most horrifying part of what was happening. The mother, though obviously dead, still had a pup lying next to her, who was alive, and oblivious to what was happening all around it. The pup was in fact still attempting to suckle the mother, while the skuas were having their way with her.

Pup attempting to suckle while skuas feed:

Skuas moving on to other opportunities:

Skuas bathing post feast:

Freshly bathed skua in search of more food:Although this was a grizzly reminder of how tough nature can be, it is a fact of life, and one we are confronted with more than one would like in this environment.


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

It is very sad to see this dead seal, and it is also so sad realizing that there are people who kill them just for hobbie. I think it is better to take viagra online and have fun than killing seals.