Saturday, November 01, 2003

Peak of pupping has arrived and we tagged nearly 40 pups on Friday. This year it appears there will be fewer pups than last year - the
number of pups tagged per day is tracking the progress from 2001, when a total of 350 pups were born on the study area. Last year there
was a total of 400 pups born. And, in years prior to 2001, there were typically 500 or more pups tagged each year. We're not sure what
exactly determines the number of pups born - but that is one of the reasons we are down here. With this data in hand, we can explore
relationships between population changes and factors like sea ice dynamics (the ice edge is very close this year as compared to the past
few years) and marine resources. How much is available for seals to eat, and are they creating enough fat reserves to undergo the stress of
producing offspring? The females do little to no foraging while nursing their pups, so they must have enough fat reserves to both ensure
their own survival during the 5-6 week nursing period, and be able to produce milk for the pup which is extremely high in fat content.

While pupping goes on apace, we the members of the seal crew continue to go out to various colonies every day on our snowmobiles and look
for newborns to tag, as well as adult seals who may have lost or broken their tags. We will do this for about another week, then begin a
series of population censuses on the study area. We will be out at our field camp for about another 5 weeks. Here are a few photos of our
camp nestled in its scenic location on the North side of Big Razorback Island.

Our camp on the sea ice. Big Razorback Island on the left.

A closer view of camp, showing our fleet of snowmachines, and our fancy 2003 model outhouse in the foreground.

Snow clouds encroaching from the east (behind the photographer).

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