January 1st: ~1

Sea Lion of the Month

SLofMHappy New Year! Since we are at the beginning of a brand new year, I thought we could look back to the beginning of this project. The Sea Lion of the Month for January  is ~1, who was the first pup marked back in 2011. This sea lion is a female that was marked on June 23, 2011 at Gillon Point (on Agattu Island). She weighed about 54 pounds (24 kg) and was almost 3.5 feet (103 cm) long.

She has proven to be quite the home-body, staying around Agattu Island. We have spotted her mostly in remote camera images at both Cape Sabak and her birth place, Gillon Point, on Agattu Island. She stuck around Gillon Point until the spring of 2012 and then she must have gone somewhere with her mother by the time summer came around because we didn’t see her in person or in our remote camera images again until the spring of 2013!

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Here is an image of ~1 captured on June 17, 2013. She is about two years old in this image and looks quite cozy snuggled up to a mother-pup pair!

From spring of 2013 through 2014,  she stayed mostly at Cape Sabak with some intermittent visits back to Gillon Point. Below you can see an image we took of ~1 during our visit to Gillon Point on June 23, 2015, exactly 4 years after the day we captured her in 2011. She’s was looking great and as you can see has developed some fungal patches. These fungal patches (circle markings) are harmless and usually permanent which can help us identify her in the future!

 

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We saw her again in 2016 but this time with a pup (no picture taken but the sighting was confirmed)! True to form, this female sea lion must have bred when she was 4 and then had her first pup the following summer when she was 5. Though we didn’t see her in 2017, hopefully you all are seeing her in remote camera images and we will see her next summer with another pup!

Curious about other pinnipeds (seals and sea lions)? Check out our neighbors in the Pacific Islands to the south, the monk seals of the Northwest Hawaiian Islands. The Pacific Island Fisheries Science Center features their own Monk Seal of the Month!


We will share the story of one marked sea lion each month. Be sure to check our Sea Lion of the Month page on the 1st of every month to learn about our featured Steller sear lion. You may nominate a sea lion by submitting their full mark on the Sea Lion of the Month nomination forum. Thank you all for your nominations! 

December 1st: ~92

Sea Lion of the Month

The Sea Lion of the Month for December was nominated by a dedicated Steller Watch Citizen Scientist: ~92! This sea lion is a male that was born on Gillon Point on Agattu Island (this island is assigned the ~ symbol). When we captured him June 24, 2013 to he weighed just over 60 Ibs (27.4 kg) and was over 3.5 ft long (111 cm) and almost 3 ft (83 cm) around his torso (measured just below the front flippers). not the heaviest pup we have seen but quite long!

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This is a remote camera image of ~92 suckling from her mother on April 14, 2014 on Gillon Point (Agattu Island).

This sea lion has been seen on only two islands both in remote cameras and during our research cruise in 2014 and 2015. We also saw ~92 just this past summer (2017) in our our hexacopter drone images in 2017 (see the featured blog image above). He mostly hung out at Gillon Point from when he was born to when he was about a year old, finally moving on to Cape Sabak (still Agattu Island) in the spring of 2014. Since then it seems he’s mostly stuck around! I wonder where he will end up once he’s old enough to compete for a breeding territory? Based on typical behavior of male sea lions, I would suspect back at Gillon Point!

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Curious about other pinnipeds (seals and sea lions)? Check out our neighbors in the Pacific Islands to the south, the monk seals of the Northwest Hawaiian Islands. The Pacific Island Fisheries Science Center features their own Monk Seal of the Month!


We will share the story of one marked sea lion each month. Be sure to check our Sea Lion of the Month page on the 1st of every month to learn about our featured Steller sear lion. You may nominate a sea lion by submitting their full mark on the Sea Lion of the Month nomination forum. Thank you all for your nominations! 

November 1st: A655

Sea Lion of the Month

The Sea Lion of the Month for November is a A655! We wanted to feature a marked sea lion that has an interesting story but is also a good example of pretty typical sea lion behavior. So far, you all would not have seen him on Steller Watch since you’re looking through images from 2015 and later. A655 was spotted in our remote camera images well before that.

But, lets start at the beginning:

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Our featured sea lion was born and marked on Ugamak Island, which is one of the other of many locations where we mark sea lions. Upon the time of capture on June 25, 2009, A655 weighed almost 60 Ibs (26 kg) and was 3.5 ft (106 cm) long. Not the largest pup we have seen but he is quite the explorer! After the summer of 2009, we did not see A655 until 2012 in the remote camera images. Volunteers in our office saw him on images captured at Cape Wrangell throughout the summer and early fall of 2012. We also saw him here in person during one of our summer research cruises in 2013.

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The next time he was spotted was all the way at Round on Walrus Island in Bristol Bay in May of 2014–that’s almost 5,000 miles (8,000 km) away! He hung around here until the following spring returned home to Ugamak Island in June of 2015. Over the next winter he headed back up to Bristol Bay and was seen at Round (Walrus Island) and Cape Newenham in spring of 2016, returning once again to Ugamak Island the following summer of 2016. It’s possible he realized he wasn’t quite ready for rookery life during the summer breeding season because he took off at the end of June and didn’t return the following summer. He definitely wasn’t looking like a young juvenile anymore (see image below) so I’d imagine some of the territorial adult males, or bulls, weren’t wanting him around.

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A655 playing in the water with other young males at his birth place, the rookery on Ugamak Island

We have no sightings of him over winter but biologists Katie Luxa and Katie Sweeney saw him at Cape Morgan on Akutan Island during their re-sight trip this past summer of 2017. This time he was hanging out at the ‘haulout’ part of this rookery site. The haulout part of the site is where we see mostly young and sub-adult males hanging out. We tend to think of this as the “bachelor beach” because these males aren’t large enough to compete with territorial bulls on the main rookery part of the site (where a majority of the breeding and pupping happens).

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A655 hanging out at the bachelor beach on Cape Morgan on Akutan Island

The movements of A655 really shows us typical behavior of Steller sea lion males. They tend to wander great distances during their younger years until they’re ready to return to their natal rookery, or rookery where they were born, to compete for a breeding territory. Lucky for us, his journey brought him all the way to the Aleutian Islands. Keep your eyes peeled, you may see another great wanderer with a very different letter or symbol than the usual ~ or >.

Curious about other pinnipeds (seals and sea lions)? Check out our neighbors in the Pacific Islands to the south, the monk seals of the Northwest Hawaiian Islands. The Pacific Island Fisheries Science Center features their own Monk Seal of the Month!


We will share the story of one marked sea lion each month. Be sure to check our Sea Lion of the Month page on the 1st of every month to learn about our featured Steller sear lion. You may nominate a sea lion by submitting their full mark on the Sea Lion of the Month nomination forum. Thank you all for your nominations! 

October 1st: ~100

Sea Lion of the Month

Our featured sea lion for October is ~100 and he is a bit of a mystery to biologists but not to those of you who are helping us classify images on Steller Watch! Many of you have reported sightings of this male sea lion at Cape Wrangell on Attu Island. We have only seen him in person in 2013, the year he was marked.

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On June 24, 2013 we captured ~100 and he weighed about 78 Ibs (35 kg), measured almost 4 ft (117 cm) long, and was just over 2.5 ft (78 cm) around his body (or girth, measured just below the front flippers). He was born on Gillon Point on Agattu Island, which is why he has the ~ symbol. We observed him staying at this in the remote camera images until the fall of 2013.

We didn’t see him again until he showed up in remote camera images from Cape Wrangell on Attu Island in the spring of 2014. Perhaps most interesting, he was seen multiple times suckling from a female next to another suckling juvenile that was much larger, likely born a year prior to ~100—this is a rare sight! Since we saw this multiple times, we assume that this female birthed both of these juvenile sea lion since females don’t usually happily nurse sea lions that are not their offspring.

 

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Curious about other pinnipeds (seals and sea lions)? Check out our neighbors in the Pacific Islands to the south, the monk seals of the Northwest Hawaiian Islands. The Pacific Island Fisheries Science Center features their own Monk Seal of the Month!


We will share the story of one marked sea lion each month. Be sure to check our Sea Lion of the Month page on the 1st of every month to learn about our featured Steller sear lion. You may nominate a sea lion by submitting their full mark on the Sea Lion of the Month nomination forum. Thank you all for your nominations! 

September 1st: =34 and =35

Sea Lion of the Month

Many of you have reported sightings of humans at Hasgox Point (Ulak Island) in the newest set of remote camera images hosted on Steller Watch. One of our favorites is the picture of our Steller Watch biologist Katie collecting scat! These images were captured of us during our last fall female capture trip in October of 2015. You can read more about these types of trips in this blog post by biologist Brian Fadely.

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This is how you carefully weigh a 800+ Ib (363+ kg) sea lion!

We visited Hasgox Point on October 5, 2015, and darted and captured two adult females: a feat that we had never accomplished before! These captures were conducted one after the other on different parts of this large site — not at the same time — to insure the safety of the animals and our scientific crew. Since seeing this activity, we thought it would be fitting to feature these two adult females as our Sea lions of the Month for September!

The first female we captured was marked as =34. She was the largest female we have ever captured! She weighed about 839 Ibs (380.5 kg), was almost 9 ft (268 cm) long, and measured almost 6 ft (177.5 cm) around her torso (measured just under her front flippers). Based on the wear and tear of her teeth, it seems she was an older female, which could explain her large size.

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When we first came upon =34, she was spotted nursing a juvenile. We spotted her at Hasgox Point the following year (2016) during our research cruise. We observed her nursing a juvenile. We’re not sure but this juvenile could be the same that we saw in 2015 (making it a two year old), or it could have been a new pup she had delivered in 2015 that we just didn’t see during our visit. This mystery will hopefully be solved by your observations of the remote camera images! This year, we saw her again at Hasgox Point but we didn’t get a good enough look to see if she had a new pup or juvenile.

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Working up an anesthetized adult female sea lion, =35.

The second female that we captured was marked as — you guessed it — =35. Interestingly, this female was the smallest female we have ever captured. She weighed 492 Ibs (223 kg), was almost 8 ft (235 cm) long, and measured almost 5 ft (142 cm) around her torso. Because she was smaller and her teeth weren’t very worn, it’s more likely that she is a younger female. Since we saw her nursing a pup, we can can assume she is no younger than 5 or 6 years old. We didn’t see her in 2016 during our research cruise but hopefully our remote cameras captured images of her! We did see her this year during our visit to Hasgox Point, nursing her new pup!

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The main goal of capturing these females was to glue satellite tags onto their heads so we could track their foraging (or feeding) behavior over winter. The satellite tag on =34 transmitted for 227 days (orange trackline in image below, right)! Shortly after her release she headed to Amchitka Island for awhile and in May 2016 made a brief visit to Hasgox Point. She returned to Amchitka Island shortly after where the tag stopped transmitting. Then, we saw her in early July 2016 at Hasgox Point during our research cruise nursing that mystery juvenile.

When we captured =35, she had been actively molting, or shedding her coat of fur. This usually occurs in the early fall which is why we plan our female capture trips in early October, hopefully after molting but before the weather gets worse. Because she was molting, her tag only lasted 16 days. In that time we saw that she stuck around Ulak Island and to the southeast of Ulak (red trackline in image above, right).

Keep an eye out for these two marked females — you’re likely to see glimpses of them and maybe you can tell us what =35 was up to after her tag stopped working!

Curious about other pinnipeds (seals and sea lions)? Check out our neighbors in the Pacific Islands to the south, the monk seals of the Northwest Hawaiian Islands. The Pacific Island Fisheries Science Center features their own Monk Seal of the Month!


We will share the story of one marked sea lion each month. Be sure to check our Sea Lion of the Month page on the 1st of every month to learn about our featured Steller sear lion. You may nominate a sea lion by submitting their full mark on the Sea Lion of the Month nomination forum. Thank you all for your nominations! 

August 1st: =30

Sea Lion of the Month

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Although you haven’t had the opportunity to see this month’s Sea Lion of the Month, you can expect to start seeing her since we just added new images to Steller Watch from the cameras stationed at Cape St. Stephens on Kiska Island. We observed this month’s featured sea lion, =30, at this site during all of our research cruises to the Aleutian Islands, including this year in 2016! We even spotted her from our hexacopter (or drone) images (right)!

During the fall female capture trip in 2014, =30 was captured at Cape St. Stephens on October 3rd. She was picked among many females because she was positioned in an ideal location to be safely darted, and was observed with a pup. She weighed an amazing 776 Ibs (352 kg), was 8.5 ft (259 cm) long, and over 5.5 ft (170 cm) in diameter, measured just under her front flippers. That is a big adult female sea lion!

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Biologists are collecting samples from and gluing on a satellite tag on =30 on October 3, 2014.

 

She was marked with an “=” (equal) sign because she was not captured and marked as a pup so we do not know her birth place. Other than the superficial wound on her lower back, she was in great shape. You can still see the scar on her side, even three years later!

 

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We captured this image of =30 on June 20, 2015 with her new pup. She still had the satellite tag glued onto her head, almost nine months after her capture in October 2014. The tag fell off shortly after.

Each time we have seen her has been at Cape St. Stephens (below, left image) and she was with a newborn pup in 2015, 2016, and 2017! Be sure to keep an eye out for =30 and her pup! According to the satellite data from her tag, she is quite the home body and will likely stick around Kiska Island.

Interested in other featured pinnipeds (seals and sea lions)? Check out our neighbors in the Pacific and their species in the spotlight, the Hawaiian monk seal! You can see their August Monk Seal of the Month here!


We will share the story of one marked sea lion each month. Be sure to check our Sea Lion of the Month page on the 1st of every month to learn about our featured Steller sear lion. You may nominate a sea lion by submitting their full mark on the Sea Lion of the Month nomination forum. Thank you all for your nominations! 

June 15th: M631 and 178M

Sea Lion of the Month

Since we are putting the Steller Watch project and blog on hold while we are away in the field, we wanted our final Sea Lion of the Month posting  to be a special one. It’s a double whammy! Many of you nominated M631 and guess what? We did some digging and confirmed that her juvenile is the same 178M that you have been seeing in images. We confirmed this with images of M631 nursing 178M on multiple occasions. It is a pretty rare and special thing to see a mother-pup pair that are both marked.

Both sea lions were born on Medny Island (Russia). M631 (the mother) was born in 2004 and marked on June 27th. She weighed about 60 pounds (27 kg) and was almost 3.5 feet long (105 cm). She remained at Medny Island throughout her younger years and was seen with her first pup in the summer of 2010.  So far, she has had six pups total. As you can see from the timeline below, she took break after her first pup during summer of 2011. During this summer, we actually saw her in the remote camera images at Cape Wrangell.

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Every summer after that she was seen back on Medny with a new pup each year! It’s great to see females having a pup every year instead of every other year, which is more typical out here in the Aleutian Islands.

SLofMSince 2012 she has been seen regularly on Cape Wrangell during the winter time. You all have seen her during her spring 2016 visit to Cape Wrangell with her fifth offspring, the juvenile 178M (and pregnant with her sixth pup). 178M was born on Medny in 2015 and marked on June 20. 178M is a female at at the time of marking, weighed about 62 pounds (28 kg) and was just over 3 feet (103 cm) long. We know that this mother-pup pair left Attu Island in the spring of 2016 and M631 showed up back in Russia in early June 2016 and gave birth to her 6th pup. I wonder if M631 took 178M with her? Let us know! If you see 178M in any images dated after June 2nd we will know if M631 weaned her and let her stay on Attu island.


We will share the stories of two marked sea lions each month. Be sure to check-in on the 1st and 15th of every month to learn about our featured Steller sear lion. You may nominate a sea lion by submitting their full mark on the Sea Lion of the Month nomination forum. Thank you all for your nominations!