This Mom lay on the beach right below the closest part of the beach to the people. She had been active in changing positions and rolling from one side to another for several hours. She had started moving down the beach when I noticed her back flippers shaking as she held them up and out from her body. That is usually one of the sure indicators of labor that I look for when I am in harbor seal dhula mode. But usually there is more time, sometimes much more time, before we would see the pup begin to emerge between the flipper.
I was just telling one of my harbor seal buddies, who has watched for many years and never seen a birth, that he needed to just stay for awhile. The seal started bobbing those flippers again and I said, "see, that's a sure sign that you should not go." He started to say that he could not wait and I grabbed him. "Jim, do not move, that pup is coming out right now". And sure enough, there is came.
This pup is breech, which you can tell because it is coming flippers first. Breech births happen about 40 percent of the time and is not dangerous to seals like it is for humans. Seals do not have a pubic bone, so the pups do not get tangled up in it and have the problems that humans do. However, as you can clearly see in the next couple of pictures, the flippers do seem to ball up before coming out from the body of the mom. This means she will have to pass that big mass and then pass the res of the pup as well.
This Mom was an older, bigger female in good condition. And the pup was huge. Even after the Mom had managed to get the flippers outside, the body just seemed to be stuck. I was surprised as long as we watched this Mom be mid way through the birthing process, that we did not hear her moan like some do when the labor is hard. She did however, change body positions multiple times as she struggled to get it out.
In the above and below photos, you can easily see the lanugo that I had talked about in previous posts when talking about how we tell premies from full term pups. It is just floating around in the amniotic fluid and many times sticks on the babies when the amniotic membranes rupture.
And last but not least, the nose to nose. This pup was almost twice the size of the two premies that were born hours before him that day. Most of his fetal folds were already filled in, making him look much older than he/she really is. Happy Ending and my harbor seal buddy got to see his first birth. (Harbor Seal buddies are locals, or folks that vacation in this area year after year and spend a lot of time at the fence watching the seals and pups. I usually do not see them most of the rest of the year.