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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/348

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haunts and the sea is given them by appointed paths, from which they are not permitted to stray to either side. The rookeries are haunted only by a few stragglers during the winter, but at the beginning of spring the older and chief males of the herd visit the place as if on a tour of inspection, swimming around cautiously, then, if all seems safe, climbing upon the rocks and examining everything carefully. The company increases very slowly till about the first of June; then, if the weather has become warm, the bull-seals come up in large numbers and select their "claims," consisting of a plot of ground about ten feet square for each animal, which he must defend against all comers. Desperate fights often take place for the possession of these little plots, at the end of which the vanquished seal withdraws humbly, while the victor quietly takes possession of his conquest. It is said, according to Mr. Clark, "that occasionally those few males who have been vanquished in all their encounters, and are therefore unable to obtain a resting-place or a wife, retire together to some distant beach, there to bury their shame, far from the society of their fellows, where they sit together gloomily, grievously wounded in body and in temper." The cow-seals arrive in about two weeks after their lords have taken possession of the grounds and selected the places for their harems, and a "universal, spasmodic, desperate fighting" takes place among the bulls. As the females come up, they are met by the "bachelors," whose duty it is to escort them to the beach and drive them up on the rocks as fast as they make their appearance. Some of them seem to be looking for some particular male, and will climb upon the rocks and call out and listen. As soon as the female has got upon the sand, the nearest male addresses her with a noise like the clucking of a hen, bows to her and coaxes her, until he gets between her and the water, when his manner changes and he begins to drive her up with angry growls. He is not yet sure of her, however, for the seals in the next line above him are on the watch to steal the most desirable prizes that their more fortunately situated fellows have captured. They take them in their mouths as cats do their kittens. Sometimes two seals contend for the same female at once, and in this case she gets terribly lacerated and sometimes torn in two. When the distribution of females has been finished, the arrangement is permanent. Each bull-seal keeps the mastery over his twelve or fifteen wives if he is in one of the front rows, five to nine if he is in a back row, and allows no intrusion on his domain. One old bull is mentioned by Mr. Elliott that had forty-five females under his charge.

The pups are born a few hours after the mothers have landed; each mother bringing forth one, seldom twins. The mothers show but little fondness for their young, but can distinguish their cries among the thousands, and each will suckle no other than her own.