May 6, 2018

Spring Has Sprung- A Look at the Baby Animals of the San Juan Islands!

Harbor Seal Popeye and Pup

Hello sunny days , blooming flowers, and warmer weather… and hello baby animals!  Spring is one of the most exciting times on the island, and the time of year we here in the islands get to welcome all the brand new baby animals that have all just been born!

This time of year we have the awesome opportunity to see hundreds of different kinds of animals that just had pups, calves, kits, and many more!  The islands happily boast an incredibly diverse environment that is home to more than 200 species of fish, 200 species of birds, and a plethora of Pinnipeds and Cetaceans.  San Juan Safaris is very excited about these newest additions to the San Juan Island and Salish Sea family- and wanted to share a look at some of the species that we tend to most often see having young additions to the island community this time of year.   

Black Tailed Deer

Columbia Black Tail Deer

 

Starting with our most prominent land-based baby buddies, we have our Columbia black tail deer.  These deer are found on every continent except Australia and Antarctica, and are incredibly common here on the islands.  In this area they have no natural predators and are actually the largest land mammal native to the islands. 

Columbia black tail deer are a brownish tan color, with- of course- their iconic black tail.   Fawns, or babies, coats all have white little polka dots on the top of their backs.  These polka dots help act as a sort of camouflage that allows them to blend in better with bushes and other grassland areas that they can often be found grazing in.  

When and where: Fawns are often born in late Spring, starting mid May and well into June, so keep your eyes open for them while visiting the island!

Fox Kit

Red Foxes 

Another popular baby that we will soon be seeing on the island are Red Foxes!  Red fox kits generally begin being spotted late April into May, which means that they’re already starting to appear!  These kits will stay close to their dens while they are growing, but will quickly be seen frolicking and hunting in the open fields of American Camp in the Cattle Point area. 

Red Foxes are apart of the dog family, which becomes incredibly clear are you watch the mannerisms of the kits playing and scurrying around these fields.  When all grown Red Foxes can easily reach running speeds of up to 30 miles per hour and are incredibly agile.  These little guys are known for having incredible hearing and stealth hunting skills.  As they grow they will make the hares that also inhabit the fields a staple meal. 

When and where: Open prairie lands such as American Camp starting early May.

Harbor Seal Pup

Harbor Seals

Another popular baby that we will soon be seeing on the island are Red Foxes!  Red fox kits generally begin being spotted late April into May, which means that they’re already starting to appear!  These kits will stay close to their dens while they are growing, but will quickly be seen frolicking and hunting in the open fields of American Camp in the Cattle Point area. 

Red Foxes are apart of the dog family, which becomes incredibly clear are you watch the mannerisms of the kits playing and scurrying around these fields.  When all grown Red Foxes can easily reach running speeds of up to 30 miles per hour and are incredibly agile.  These little guys are known for having incredible hearing and stealth hunting skills.  As they grow they will make the hares that also inhabit the fields a staple meal. 

When and where: Open prairie lands such as American Camp starting early May.

Steller Sea Lion

Steller Sea Lions

Steller sea lions are another pinniped that will soon be having pups. This area is lucky to be home to these massive pinnipeds for part of the year.  Steller Sea lions are the largest species of all Sea Lions weighing in at about 2,500 pounds and 10 to 12 feet long.   Pups are about 25 to 30 pounds and about 3 feet long.  They are most easily spotted hauled out on the rocks, growling, grunting and making incredibly loud and entertaining noises.  In fact Steller sea lions roars and other vocalizations can be heard up to a half mile away!

Stellers pupping season is mid- May to mid- July. Once born Steller mothers will stay with their pups for about one or two weeks before beginning to head out to see to hunt again. Pups will nurse anywhere between 1 to 3 years while learning from their mothers how to efficiently hunt and use their flippers as paddles and rutters for swimming. Full grown Stellers can dive up to 650 ft searching for food including herring, octopus, squid, salmon, etc.

When and where: Spring and autumn on rocky outcroppings and uninhabited islands.

GUESTS ABOARD M/V SEA LION JOINING IN ON THE FUN! PHOTO CREDIT: @HYSAZU

Orcas

Perhaps one of the most iconic species of the San Juan Islands, orca calves are also starting to be seen!  Baby orcas have already been cited on some of our trips this season!  Check out a blog from one of our trips earlier this season where we saw one of the first Transient orca calves of the year!

A normal gestation period for an orca mother is about 17 months.  Newborn orca calves are about 8.5 feet long and about 250 to 350 pounds.  Once full grown they can reach anywhere from 25 to 35 feet long; females can weigh 3,000 to 6,000 pounds, and males can weigh 8,000 to 12,000 pounds.   Orcas have very similar life timeline structures as ours, and can live to be anywhere from 50 to 100 years old.  J Pod Resident orca J-2, lovingly referred to as Granny, lived to be 105 years old!

When and where to see orca calves: February through November on a Whale Watch & Wildlife Tour with San Juan Safaris!

Eagle Nest

Eagles

Finally moving from water to air we have our eagles.  The San Juan Islands are excited to boast one of the largest Eagle breeding ground of the south 48!  We have more than a hundred breeding pairs in the area.  Eagles mate for life and return to the same nest year after year, often generation after generation.  Each year the eagles add onto their nest, and it isn’t rare to find multi-thousand pound nests that have been built for generations. 

Eagle clutches are usually 1 to 3 eggs total, with each egg weighing about 4oz.  Baby eagles are born completely brown, and don’t actually develop the iconic white colored heads until about 5 years old.   They begin fledging at about 10 to 12 weeks.  As they grow eagles will develop and refine their hunting skills, eventually growing up to consume fish, salmon, sea birds, rabbits, snakes, etc. from ocean and grass lands around island.   A full size eagle will have a wing span of about 6 ft long, but will only weigh about 7 pounds!  Look for eagles and eagle babies in the tree lines, hanging out in their nests this time of year!

When and where: March through May On a three- or five-hour guided Wildlife Tour by Sea Kayak with San Juan Outfitters 

 

Interested in joining us to maximize your chances of seeing much of the wildlife covered here? 

Then book your trip to come out with us for a Whale Watch and Wildlife tour with the San Juan Safaris, or a Guided Wildlife Tour by Sea Kayak with San Juan Outfitters!

As always, don’t hesitate to contact us when you were ready to book, or with any questions you might have-  Our reservation staff would be happy to help get your adventure started!

 

Cheers,

Naturalist Alexandria