Long Nosed Fur Seal
Seals are regular visitors to Sydney. Most common are Long Nosed Fur Seals, also known as New Zealand Fur Seals, with irregular visits by Australian Fur Seals, Subantartic Fur Seals and Leopard Seals.
Long Nosed Fur Seals do much of their hunting at night and spend the day resting on or near the shore. Sick or injured seals will haul out on beaches, which provide easy access to the water. Healthy individuals prefer more protected and difficult to access sections of rocky shore. Some clamber onto the rocks to warm in the sun, scratch and sleep. Others stay in the water, using the backwash generated against the rocks to hold them steady by the water’s edge. Those in the water often assume a strange resting pose, lying on their side with a long flipper grasped by one of their stubby legs.
All the seals I’ve seen around Sydney have been individual animals or small groups up to three, always juveniles all of similar size. I recently heard that a larger and more diverse group was regularly being seen at an artificial breakwater in Botany Bay. A scan along the long stretch of concrete pieces that make up the breakwater revealed a cluster of dark forms at the apex of a curve in the wall. It was a group of ten Long Nosed Fur Seals. Six were resting in the water while four perched on the breakwater.
The ones in the water were all about the size of a mature female. In contrast, three of those on the shore were small juveniles and one was a very large male, who dwarfed all the others and was probably somewhere over the 250 kg mark.
Seal sightings around Sydney are concentrated in winter, with the departure of any adults to breeding colonies in southern Australia over summer. It will be interested to see if this mini ‘colony’ persists over this coming summer. If it does, and the animals manage to maintain their well feed appearance over the warm months, it is possible that they might form the nucleus of a future breeding colony. Historically such colonies were found as far north as Port Stephens. This may well turn out to be another species that is not just adapting to highly modified urban habitats but thriving.
Odds and Sods