“What We Got Here is Failure to Communicate”~

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Elephant Seals are obviously not the only species with this problem!

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This sub-adult male seems a bit sheepish about his not yet mature mating attempts.
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He looks at me almost as if he’s apologetic!
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He’s just practising now, learning how to deal with all the rejection.

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Elephant Seal mating is disturbingly violent. It is a hard life being an elephant seal.
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Looking into the female’s eyes it is impossible not to feel sorry for her and her continual harassment.

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For now at least, the adolescent males just look beached and confused!
Cheers to you the Piedras Blancas elephant seals~

Title quote: “Cool Hand Luke.”

221 thoughts on ““What We Got Here is Failure to Communicate”~

    • Yes, this is exactly how I felt! These males probably won’t mate this year. But the dominant males will and they will do so violently and without consent. Babies on the beach are sometimes killed in the melee. I have not been here when mating is in full force and I don’t want to be.

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  1. These are adorable photos – very moving and you’ve captured their very essence I feel. Can you really get so close to the seals? That must be an amazing experience! πŸ˜€ Wishing you a great weekend, Cindy. πŸ˜ƒ

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    • Thank you for such a lovely comment Annika & I am so pleased you are sensitive to the elephant seal’s essence. One thing I have learned photographing the faces of wild animals is they are emotional and intelligent creatures, who are as curious about me as I am about them! They are like us!

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  2. I think as human adults we can all relate to that too, sometimes; lack of communication, misunderstanding, etc. We ask things like, “Can you hear me now?”, “Are you even listening?” etc. I find it very interesting the things we have in common with the mammal species. πŸ™‚

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    • I definitely find the commonalities interesting too! I was taught about the perils of anthropomorphizing animals, or ascribing them human characteristics. Having photographed so many wild animals, I now realize how misleading this concept is. Animals are complex, intelligent and emotional creatures, with many similarities to us.

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    • I noticed some females on more distant beaches, not up with the main colony. I wonder if they can remain here unmolested there and if so, these are smart females. I feel sorry for them too and did not hang around to watch the mating when it went into full swing.

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  3. Wow, he really looks like he’s trying to get friendly with her in the top image, like he’s saying, “Hey… How YOU doin?”

    It’s interesting that the power dynamic is so different from one species to another. For example, among the Cassowaries in Australia, the males are scared of the females. There’s a documentary on Youtube showing a male (whose duty is to sit on the eggs and care for the young alone) who reluctantly abandons his young-ish chicks to fend for themselves because an adult female is demanding his special attention and would harm the chicks. Poor things. They seemed happy together (the male and the chicks).

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    • These different patterns of behavior are confusing aren’t they and frankly, despite all the Darwinian explanations, lots of it doesn’t make much sense. Elephant Seals would be better off with more males mating and less dominance in the gene pool with only one male and 100 or so partners. Everyone would be happier too. I have to restrain myself thinking like a psychotherapist who treated abusive males for a few decades when I visit these guys. I have to use self talk, “They are elephant seals Cindy. They can’t go to group!”
      πŸ˜‰ πŸ˜‰

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  4. Wonderful photos. They really are most characterful creatures. I remember in a nature show on television all about elephant seals, that the mating season did involve some pretty violent encounters between competing males, and they made some impressive noises when they were cross.

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    • The males also rape females and squish babies in the violent melee, and you are right, the males do fight regularly but most intensely for control of the beach before the females arrive. The females pick the harem and male they want to join. I saw solitary females on empty beaches. These must have been the smart, feminist seals! πŸ˜‰

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    • It is an odd life, they spend the bulk of their lives alone in the deep ocean, and meet up, and mash up for a couple of months to breed, fight, and raise their young. I would want to find some empty atoll and live there instead! πŸ˜‰

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