GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT IN FREE-RANGING HARBOR SEAL (PHOCA VITULINA) PUPS FROM SOUTHERN BRITISH COLUMBIA, CANADA

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Abstract

Harbor seals (Phoca vitulina) are small pinnipeds that are widely distributed throughout the temperate coastal regions of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. We determined birth mass, neonatal growth rates, weaning age, and weaning mass of NE Pacific harbor seals (P. v. richardsi) during a capture-recapture study that spanned the nursing period (Sidney Island, British Columbia, Canada). Of 46 harbor seal pups initially captured, 28 were classified as newborns (i. e., < 24 h old). Mean body mass of newborns was 11.2 ± SE 0.31 kg. Pups were individually tagged and recaptured throughout the nursing period. Average daily mass gain during the nursing period was 394 ± 26 g. Mean birth mass of males did not differ significantly from females, although pups found with fetal pelage (lanugo) (21.4% of all newborns) were smaller at birth (9.8 ± 0.44 kg) than non-lanugo pups (11.6 ± 0.33 kg). Mean weaning mass was estimated at 23.6 ± 1.2 kg at a mean weaning age of 32 d ± 1.5 d. While birth and weaning masses differed little from the published data for offshore Sable Island harbor seals (P. v. concolor), British Columbia harbor seals are characterized by half the daily mass gain and a longer nursing period.

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