WILDLIFE DISCOVERY : Australian Fur Seal

This aquatic mammal is a superb swimmer, and can dive to approximately 150 metres searching for fish and squid, and is highly gregarious (fond of company). The male Australian Fur Seal (with massive necks and shoulders and powerful canine teeth) weighs up to 360 Kgs and is approximately 2 metres long.

This aquatic mammal is a superb swimmer, and can dive to approximately 150 metres searching for fish and squid, and is highly gregarious (fond of company)

The male Australian Fur Seal (with massive necks and shoulders and powerful canine teeth) weighs up to 360 Kgs and is approximately 2 metres long.

They are dark grayish to brown with a paler underside, and a dark mane of coarse hair over the neck and shoulders.

The lifespan of an Australian Fur Seal male is roughly 19 years

Australian Fur Seal females are smaller and lighter than their male counterparts, weighing up to 100 Kgs and are approximately 1.7 metres in length.

Females vary in colour from pale fawn to grey to grayish brown to silver gray, with a pale (often yellowish) throat and brown underside. Their lifespan of an Australian Fur Seal female is roughly 21 years.

Australian Fur Seals are found mainly in Bass Strait between Victoria and Tasmania and small patches off the coast of New South Wales and South Australia.

Breeding now occurs at only 9 sites, all in Bass Strait. These sites are all “rocky” eg. Rock slopes, ledges, pebble beaches reefs and caves. Population size is hard to determine but estimates suggest between 35,000 and 60,000.

Australian Fur Seals dive deep in Bass Strait to feed on small squids octopuses, fishes crustations and rock lobsters. Their preferred prey is squid and small fish, such as schools of pilchards or mackerel.

It seems probable that it finds some prey by echolocation. Australian Fur Seals have very keen sight.

The fur seal is an extremely good swimmer and diver and moves eloquently through its marine environment.

The same can not be said for its movement across land where it uses its four flippers in a variety of gaits and waddles to move at speeds from a slow walk to a fast gallop.

Reproduction occurs on exposed sites such as rock slopes, ledges, pebble beaches and reefs. Adult breeding males (Bulls) arrive at the breeding sites in late October (spring) and establish their territories (resolved through fighting).
Pregnant females (Cows) mostly arrive in late November and generally give birth to a single pup about 2 days later, virtually a year since copulation, (though gestation actually begins 3 to 4 months after copulation) After giving birth, the Fur Seal female will remain ashore for 6 days and then re-mate.

After this they go to sea to feed for a few days at a time, returning for 2 to 3 days to nurse their pups. This pattern continues for about 10 -11 months until the pups are weaned.

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