Tuesday, January 3, 2017


January 2 was an unusual day at the bluff. I saw several things I've never seen before: a shark-killed carcass, a shark-bitten bull who will survive, a beachmaster bleeding from fighting wounds, a pup washed to sea and swimming for his life, and another pup nursing so much the milk dripped down.

The shark attacks, reported to Brian Hatfield, the USGS wildlife biologist who follows shark activity, follow a report in the newspaper of a 22-foot great white shark that stole a lingcod off a fisherman's line off Montana de Oro, 50 miles south of here.
These remains clearly show the impressions of shark teeth.

This adult bull was recovering from shark bites to his flippers.

Sharks attack from below and behind. Adult bulls are not thought to be their most vulnerable prey. A big bull like this can turn around and bite the attacker. An injured shark could be unable to hunt.

This beachmaster is the first on the beach, presiding over a harem on the south end of the site. The calloused area on the chest, the chest shield, develops as the seal matures, and is a thick skin that takes the worst of most fights. Bulls rip and tear at each other with their teeth. This one's bloody injuries invite the speculation: What does the loser look like?

One pup got washed out to sea. Apparently, pups can swim when they are born. He was only a few days old, yet swam back and forth in the surf. Unfortunately, he didn't know enough to come back to the beach. It was raining hard and I didn't wait to find out.

On the beach, this pup was enjoying a good feed. a gull came over to steal milk.
It's a mixed bag during the breeding season. Heavy rains are forecast later this week. We'll see how that affects the seals.