Traveled down to San Simeon, CA to spend some time with the Elephant seals during their pupping and breeding season. Always wish i had more time to watch some things that i see but can not get answers to because i can not be there to watch for extended periods of days. This time, I had to go around through King City and Paso Robles to get there instead of my favored route through Big Sur. All the rains have caused rock and mud slides in Big Sur and Highway 1 is closed in the middle right now. I helped give a whale watching tour at Pt Sur lightstation on Monday before heading down to San Simone. And i knew that more rain was coming in Wed, plus i had to get back to sing at church at Wed night. But if i did n't get down there for at least a little bit, then i would not find a long stretch of time. I usually combine some monarch hunting with my trip but not this time.
No, this Mom did not have three pups. One is probably her's but the others are one that were probably orphaned and for whatever reason has decided to try and nurse all three. This is very dangerous for her and all three of the pups. The Mom nurses the pups for around 28 days. These pups who are around sixty pounds at birth will blossom to around 300 by the time they are weened. ( I will talk more about what happens after they are weened in another post.)
For every pound that the pup gains, the Mom loses 2 pounds. The fat in her milk is above 50 percent (a human's is 3-8 percent). This allows the pup to grow really fast but is a huge transfer of energy from that Mom to the pup. And the Mom does not eat during this time.
So trying to feed three pups is not mathematically feasible. And if you look at pics of this Mom and other Moms with pups this size, you will see that she is already severely underweight. And these pups look like they at least need another week of nursing before being able to be weaned and survive that first year. (Fifty percent of the pups born will not survive the first year. And additional 25 percent do not make it through the second year).
This Mom not only tolerates the pups but defends them from the other Mom's and the males. My guess is that she became confused when she gave birth about which pup was her's and instead of picking one, she adopted all of them. (see my breech birth bonding blog for more on why i believe this). (coming soon)