G. Brown (George Brown) Goode.

The fisheries and fishery industries of the United States (Volume 1:1) online

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time, obliged to leave from virile exhaustion, or incipient wounds. All the surplus able bodied
males, that have not been successful in ettecting a landing on the rookeries, cannot at any one
time during the season be seen here on this rear line. Only a portion of their numl>er are in
six lit : the others are either loafing at sea, adjacent, or are hauled out in morose squads between
the rookeries on the beaches.

COURAGE OF THE FUR SEALS. The courage with which the Fur Seal holds his ]>osition as
the head and guardian of a family, is of the higliest order. I have repeatedly tried to drive them
from their harem posts, when they were fairly established on their stations, and have always
failed, with few exceptions. I might use every stone at my command, making all the noise I could.
Finally, to put their courage to the fullest test, I have walked up to within twenty feet of an old
veteran, toward the extreineeud of Tolstoi, who had only four cows in charge, and commenced with my
double-barreled fowling piece to pepper him all over with tine mustard-seed shot, being kind enough,
in spite of my zeal, not to put out his eyes. 1 1 is bearing, in spite of the noise, smell of powder, and
painful irritation which the fine shot must have produced, did not change in the least from Un-
usual attitude of determined plucky defense, which nearly all of the bulls assumed when attacked
with showers of stones and noise; he would dart out right and left with his long neck and catch
the timid cows, that furtively attempted to run after each report of my gun, fling and drag them
back to their places under his head; and then, stretching up to his full height look me directly
and detiaiitly in the face, roaring and chuckling most vehemently. The cows, however, -oon ^ot
away from him; they could uot stand my racket in spite of their dread of Imn; but he still M<>d



88 NATURAL HISTORY OF AQUATIC ANIMALS.

his ground, making little charges on me of ten or fifteen feet in a succession of gallops or hinges,
spitting furiously, and then comically retreating to the old position, with an indescribable leer and
swagger, back of which he would not go, fully resolved to hold his own or die in the. attempt.

This courage is all the more noteworthy from the fact that, in regard to man, it is invariably
of a defensive character. The Seal is always on the defensive ; he never retreats, and he will not
attack. If he makes you return when you attack him, he never follows you much farther than
the boundary of his station, and then no aggravation will compel him to take the offensive, so far
as I have been able to observe. I was very much impressed by this trait.

BEHAVIOR OF THE FEMALE SEALS ON THE ROOKERIES. The cows, during the whole season,
do great credit to their amiable expression by their manner and behavior on the rookery; they
never fight or quarrel one with another, and never or seldom utter a cry of pain or rage when they
are roughly handled by the bulls, which frequently get a cow between them and actually tear the
skin from her back with their teeth, cutting deep gashes in it as they snatch her from mouth to
mouth. If sand does not get into these wounds it is surprising how rapidly they heal; and, from
the fact that I never could see scars on them anywhere except the fresh ones of this year, they
must heal effectually and exhibit no trace the next season.

The cows, like the bulls, vary much in weight, but the extraordinary disparity in the size of
the sexes, adult, is exceedingly striking. Two females taken from the rookery nearest to Saint
Paul Village, right under the bluffs, and almost beneath the eaves of the natives' houses, called
"Nah Speel," after they had brought forth their young, were weighed by myself, and their
respective returns on the scales were fifty-six and one hundred pounds each, the former being
about three or four years old, and the latter over six perhaps ten; both were fat, or rather in
good condition as good as they ever are. Thus" the female is just about one-sixth the size of
the male. 1 Among the Sea Lions the proportion is just one half the bulk of the male, 2 while the
Hair Seals, as I have before stated, are not distinguishable in this respect, as far as I could observe,
but my notice was limited to a few specimens only.

ATTITUDES OF FUR SEALS ON LAND. It s quite beyond my power, indeed entirely out of
the question, to give a fair idea of the thousand and one positions in which the Seals compose
themselves and rest when on land. They may be said to atsnme eveiy possible attitude which a
flexible body can be put into, no matter how characteristic or seemingly forced or constrained.
Their joints seem to be double-hinged; in fact, all ball and socket union of the bones. One favorite
position, especially with tire females, is to perch upon a point or edge-top of some rock, and throw
their heads back upon their shoulders, with the nose held directly up and aloft; and then closing
their eyes, to take short naps without changing their attitude, now and then softly lifting one or
the other of their long, slender hitid-tiippers, which they slowly wave with their peculiar fanning
motion to which I have alluded heretofore. Another attitude, and one of the most common, is to
curl themselves up just as a dog does on a hearth rug, bringing the tail and nose close together.
They also stretch out, laying the head close to the body, and sleep an hour or two without rising,
holding one of the hind flippers up all the time, now and then gently moving it, the eyes being
tightly closed.

1 ought, perhaps, to define here the anomalous tail of the Fur Seal. It is just about as
important as the caudal appendage to a bear, even less significant: it is the very emphasis of
abbreviation. In the old males it is positively only lour or five inches in length, while among the
females only two and a half to three inches, wholly inconspicuous, and not even recognized by the
casual observer.



'Adult male anil female Callurliinun untiling.
Adult male and female Kametoijiae Slelleri.



Till- ITR SEAL: SM-IKPINC IIA111TS. 39

SLEEPING SEALS. I come now to speak of another feature which interested me nearly, if not
quite, as much as any other characteristic of this creature; ami that ia their fashion of slumber.
Tiie sleep of the Fur Seal, seen on land, from the old male down to the youngest, is always accom-
panied by mi involuntary, nervous, muscular twitching and slight shifting of the flippers, together
with ever and anon quivering and uneasy rollings of the body, accompanied by a quick folding
anew of the fore-flipper*) all of which may be signs, as it were, in fact, of their simply having
nightmares, or of sporting, in a visionary way, far ott' in some dream land sea; but ]>erhaps very
much as an old nurse said, in reference to the smiles on a sleeping child's face, they are distur!>ed
by their intestinal parasites. I have studied hundreds of such somnolent examples. Stealing
softly up, so closely that I could lay my hand upon them from the point where I was sitting, did
I wish to, and watching the sleeping Seals, I have always found their sleep to 1x3 of this nervous
description. The respiration is short and rapid, but with no breathing (unless the ear is brought
very close) or snoring sound; the quivering, heaving of the thinks only indicates the action of the
lungs. I have frequently thought that I had succeeded in finding a snoring Seal, especially among
the pups; but a close examination always gave some abnormal reason for it; generally a slight
distemper, never anything severer, however, than some trifle by which the nostrils were stopped
up to a greater or less degree.

The cows on the rookeries sleep a great deal, but the males have the veriest cat-naps that can
be imagined. I never could time the slumber of any old male on the breeding-grounds, which
lasted without interruption longer than five minutes, day or night; while away from these places,
however, I have known them to He sleeping in the manner I have described, broken by these fitful,
nervous, dreamy starts, yet without opening the eyes, for an hour or so at a time.

With the exception of the pups, the Fur Seal seems to have very little rest awake or sleeping;
perpetual motion is well nigh incarnate with its being.

FUR-SEAL PUPS. As I have said before, the females, soon after landing, are delivered of their
young. Immediately after the birth of the pup (twins are rare, if ever) the little creature finds its
voice, a weak, husky blaat, and begins to paddle about with its eyes wide open from the start, in a
confused sort of way for a few minutes, until the mother turns around to notice her offspring and
give it attention, and still later to suckle it; and for this purpose she is supplied with four small,
brown nipples, almost wholly concealed in the fur, and which are placed about eight inches apart,
lengthwise with the body, on the abdomen, between the fora- and hind flippers, with about four
inches of space between them transversely. These nipples are seldom visible, and then faintly
seen through the hair and fur. The milk is abundant, rich, and creamy. The pups nurse very
heartily, almost gorging themselves, so much so that they often have to yield up the excess of what
they have taken down, mewling and puking in the most orthodox manner.

The pup from birth, and for the next three months, is of a jet-black color, hair and flipi>ers,
save a tiny white patch just back of each forearm. It weighs first from three to four pomiil.-. and
is twelve to fourteen inches long. It does not seem to nurse more than once every- two or thrro
days, but in this I am very likely mistaken, for they may have received attention Irorn the mother
in the night, or other times in the day when 1 was unable to keep up my watch over the individuals
which I had marked for this supervision.

The apathy with which the young are treated by the old on the breeding-grounds, especially
by the mothers, was very strange to me, and I was considerably surprised at it. 1 have ne\ei >cen
a seal-mother caress or fondle her offspring; and should it stray to a short distance from the hare .
I could step to and pick it up, and even kill it before the inniher'.- e\e. without cau.-ing her tin-
slightest concern, as far as all outward signs and manifestation would indicate. The sa iudifler-



90 NATURAL HISTORY OF AQUATIC ANIMALS.

ence is also exhibited by the male to all that may take place of this character outside of the
boundary of his seraglio; but the moment the pups are inside the limits of his harem-ground, he is
a jealous and a fearless protector, vigilant and determined; but if tV-e little animals are careless
enough to pass beyond this boundary, then I can go up to them and carry them off before the eye
of the old Turk without receiving from him the slightest attention iu their behalf a curious
guardian, forsooth!

It is surprising to me how few of these young pups get crushed to death while the ponderous
males are floundering over them, engaged in lighting and quarreling among themselves. I have
seen two bulls dash at each other with all the energy of furious rage, meeting right iu the midst of
a small "pod" of forty or fifty pups, tramp over them with all their crushing weight, and bowling
them out right and left in every direction by the impetus of their movements, without injuring a
single one, as far as I could see. Still, when wo come to consider the fact that, despite the great
weight of the old males, their broad, flat flippers and yielding bodies may press down heavily on
these little fellows without actually breaking bones or mashing them out of shape, it seems
questionable whether more thau one per cent, of all the pups born each season on these great
rookeries of the Pribylov Islands are destroyed in this manner on the breeding-grounds. 1

The vitality of the Fur Seal is simply astonishing. His physical organization passes beyond
the fabled nine lives of the cat. As a slight illustration of his tenure of life, I will mention the
i'act, that one morning the chief came to me with a pup in his arms, which had just been born, and
was still womb-moist, saying that the mother had been killed at Tolstoi by accident, and he sup-
pose! that I would like to have a "choochil." 2 I took it up into my laboratory, and finding that
it could walk about and make a great noise, I attempted to feed it, with the idea of having a
comfortable subject to my pencil, for life-study of the young in the varied attitudes of sleep and
motion. It refused everything that I could summon to its attention as food; and, alternately
sleeping and walking, iu its clumsy fashion, about the floor, it actually lived nine days spending
the halt of every day in floundering over the floor, accompanying all movement with a persistent,
hoarse, blaating cry and I do not believe it ever had a single drop of its mother's milk.

In the pup, the head is the only disproportionate feature at birth, when it is compared with
the adult form; the neck being also relatively shorter and thicker. The eye is large, round, and
full, but almost a "navy blue" at times, it soon changes into the blue black of adolescence.

The females appear to go to and come from the water to feed and bathe, quite frequently, after
bearing their young, and the immediate subsequent coitus with the male; and usually return to
the spot or its immediate neighborhood, where they leave their pups, crying out for them, and
recogniy.ing the individual replies, though ten thousand around, all together, should bloat at once.
They quickly single out their own and nurse them. It would certainly be a very unfortunate matter
if the mothers could not identify their young by sound, since their pups get together like a great
swarm of bees, and spread out, upon the ground in what the sealers call " pods," or clustered groups,
while they are young and not very large; but from the middle or end of September, until they
leave the islands for the dangers of the great Pacific, in the winter, along into the heat of November,
they gather in this manner, sleeping and frolicking by tens of thousands, bunched together at
various places all over the islands contiguous to the breeding-grounds, and right on them. A
mother comes up from the sea, whither she has been to wash, and perhaps to feed, for the last day
or two, feeling her way along to about where she thinks her pup should be at least where she left

'The only damage which those little fellows have up here, is being caught by an October gale down at the surf-
margin, when they have not fairly learned to swim ; large numbers have been destroyed by sudden "nips" of this
character.

'A specimen to stuff.



Tin: i [ n SEAL: HABITS OF THE PUPS. 91

it l;ist luit perhaps she misses it, and finds instead a swarm of pups in which it has been incor-
porated, owing to its great fondness for society. The mother, without tirst entering into the crowd
of thousands, calls out just us a sheep docs for a lamb; and, out of all the din she if not at first,
at the end of a few trials recognizes the voice of her offspring, and then advances, striking out
right and left, toward the position from which it replies. Hut if the pup happens at this time to
be asleep, it gives, of course, no response, even though it were close by ; iu the event of this silence
the cow, after calling for a time without being answered, curls herself up and takes a nap, or lazily
basks, to be usually more successful, or wholly so, when she calls again.

The pups themselves do not know their own mothers a fact which 1 ascertained by careful
observation ; but they are so constituted that they incessantly cry out at short intervals during
the whole time they are awake, and in this way the mother can pick out from the monotonous
blaating of thousands of pups, her own, and she will not prrmit any other to suckle it ; but the
"Kotickie" themselves attempt to nose around every seal-mother that comes in contact with them.

I have repeatedly watched young pups aa they made advances to nurse from another pup's
mother; the result invariably being, that while the mother would permit her owu offspring to
suckle freely, yet, when these little strangers touched her nipples, she would either move abruptly
away, or else turn quickly down upon her stomach, so that the maternal fountains were inaccessible
to the alien and hungry "Kotickie." I have witnessed so many examples of the females turning
pups away, to suckle only some particular other one, that I feel sure I am entirely right in saying
that the seal-mothers know their own young; and that they will not permit any others to nurse
save their owu. I believe that this recognition of them is due chiefly to the mother's scent and
hearing.

DISORGANIZATION OF THE BOOKERIKS. Between the end of July and the 5th or 8th of
August of every year, the rookeries are completely changed iu appearance; the systematic and
regular disposition of the families or harems over the whole extent of the breeding-ground has
disappeared; all that clock-work order which has heretofore existed seems to be broken up. The
breeding-season over, those bulls which have held their positions since the first of May leave, most
of them thin in flesh and weak, and of their number a very large proportion do not come out again
on land during the season; but such as are seen at the end of October and November, are in good
flesh. They have a new coat of rich, dark, gray-brown hair and fur, with gray or grayish ocher
"wigs" of longer hair over the shoulders, forming a fresh, strong contrast to the dull, rusty brown
and umber dress in which they appear to us during the summer, and which they had begun to
sh.'d about the tirst of August, in common with the females and the "Hollnschiekie." After these
males leave, at the close of their season's work and of the rutting for the year, those of them that
happen to return to the land in any event do not come back until the end of September, and do
not haul upon the rookery-grounds again. As a rule they prefer to herd together, like the younger
males, upon the sand-beaches and rocky points close to the water.

The cows and pups, together with those bulls which we have noticed in waiting in the rear of the
rookeries, and which have been in retirement throughout the whole of the breeding-season, now
take possession, in a very disorderly manner, of the rookeries. There come, also, a large nunilivr
of young, three, four, and live year old males, which have been prevented by the menacing threats
of the older, stronger bulls, from landing among the females during the mtting-season.

Before the middle of August three-fourths, at least, of the cows at this date are oft' in the
water, only coming ashore at irregular intervals to nurse ami look after their pups a short time.
They presented to my eye, from the summits of the blulls round about, a picture more suggoiivc
than anything I have ever seen presented b\ animal life, of entire comfort and enjoyment. Here,



92 NATURAL HISTORY OF AQUATIC ANIMALS.

just out and beyond the breaking of the rollers, they idly lie on tbe rocks or sand -beaches, ever
and anon turning over and over, scratching their backs and sides with their fore- and hind-flippers.
The Seals on the breeding ground appear to get very lousy.

The Fur Seal spends a great deal of time, both at sea and on land, in scratching its hide; for it
is annoyed by a species of louse, a Pediculus, to just about the same degree and in the same manner
that our dogs are by fleas. To scratch, it sits upon its haunches, and scrapes away with the
toe-nails of first one and then the other of its hind-flippers; by which action it reaches readily all
portions of its head, neck, chest, and shoulders ; and, with either one or the other of its fore-
flippers, it rubs down its spinal region back of the shoulders to the tail. By that division of labor
with its feet, it can promptly reduce, with every sign of comfort, any lousy irritation wheresoever
on its body. This Pediculus, peculiar to the Fur Seal, attaches itself almost exclusively to the
pectoral regions; a few, also, are generally found at the bases of the auricular pavilions.

When the Fur Seal is engaged in this exercise, it cocks its head and wears exactly the same
expression that our common house-dog does while subjugating and eradicating fleas; the eyes are
partly or wholly closed; the tongue lolls out; and the whole demeanor is one of quiet but intense
satisfaction.

The Fur Seal appears also to scratch itself in the water with the same facility and unction so
marked on land; only it varies the action by using its fore-hands principally, in its fluviatile
exercise, while its hind-feet do most of the terrestrial scraping.

While 1 have written with much emphasis upon the total absence of any record as to the prev-
alence of an epidemic in these large rookeries, I should, perhaps, mark the fact that no symptoms
of internal diseases have ever been noticed here, such as tuberculosis of the lungs, etc., which
invariably attack and destroy the Fur Seal when it is taken into confinement, as well as the Sea
Lions also; the latter, however, have a much greater power of endurance under such artificial
circumstances of life. The thousands upon thousands of disemboweled Pribylov fur seal carcasses
have never presented abnormal or diseased viscera of any kind.

MANGY cows AND PUPS. The frequent winds and showers drive and spatter sand into their
fur and eyes, often making the latter quite sore. This occurs when they are obliged to leave; the
rocky rookeries and .follow their paps out over the sand-ridges and flats, to which they always
have a natural aversion. On the hauling grounds they pack the soil under foot so hard and tightly
in many places, that it holds water in the surface depressions, just like so many rock-basins. Out
of and into these puddles the pups and the females flounder and patter incessantly, until evapora-
tion slowly abates the nuisance. This is for the time only, inasmuch as Hie next day, perhaps,
brings more rain, and the dirty pools arc replenished.

The pups sometimes get so thoroughly plastered in these muddy., slimy puddles, that the hair
falls oft' in patches, giving them, at first sight, the appearance of being troubled with scrofula or
some other plague: from my investigations, directed to this point, I became satisfied that they
were not permanently injured, though evidently very much annoyed. With reference to this
suggestion as to sickness or distemper among the Seals, I gave the subject direct and continued
attention, and in no one of the rookeries could I discover a single Seal, no matter how old or young,
which appeared to lie suffering in the least from any physical disorder, other than that which they
themselves had inflicted, one upon the other, by fighting. The third season, passing direclly under
my observation, failed to reward my search with any manifestation of d'seasc among the Seals
which congregate in such mighty numbers on the rookeries of Saint Paul and Saint (leorge. The
remarkable freedom from all such complaints enjoyed by these animals is noteworthy, and the



TIIK rci; SKA!,: \I.\M;IM;SS. ;;

must trenchant :ni(l penetrating cross-questioning of the natives, also, failed to Rive me any history
or evidence of an epidemic in the past.

HOSPITALS. The observer will, however, notice every summer, gathered in melancholy squads
of a dozen to one hundred or so, scattered along the coast where the healthy Seals never go, those
sick and disabled bulls which have, iu the earlier part of the season, been either internally injured
or dreadfully scarred by the teeth of their opponents iu lighting. Sand is blown by the winds into
the fresh wounds and causes an inflammation and a sloughing, which very often finishes the life of
the victim. The sailors term these invalid gatherings "hospitals," a phrase which, like most of
their homely expressions, is quite appropriate.

YOUNU SEALS LKARNINO TO SWIM. Early in August, usually by the 8th or 10th, 1 noticed
one of the remarkable movements of the season. I refer to the pup's h'rst essay in swimming. Is
it not odd paradoxical that the young Seal, fro-n the moment of his birth until he is a month or
six weeks old, is utterly unable to switnf If lie is seized by the najR' of the neck and pitched out
a rod into the water from shore, his bullet-like head will drop instantly below the surface, and his
attenuated posterior extremities Hap impotently on it; suffocation is the question of only a few
minutes, the stupid little creature not knowing how to raise his immersed head and gain the air



Online LibraryG. Brown (George Brown) GoodeThe fisheries and fishery industries of the United States (Volume 1:1) → online text (page 20 of 146)