Newborn Pacific Harbor Seal Pups at the Children’s Pool in La Jolla

By April 24, 2023April 28th, 2023Harbor Seal, La Jolla

I made an effort to photograph Pacific harbor seal pups (Phoca vitulina richardsi) this past winter after a long absence and managed to create a few new images I am happy with. I photographed the La Jolla Seals regularly when the colony was first established in the early 1990s. I think my first harbor seal portraits there were in 1994. Few people were aware of the growing group of harbor seals at the Children’s Pool then, so we could sit quietly on the beach and watch the seals in the golden morning light as they rested, played in the shallow water and raised their their pups. But over time the Children’s Pool became increasingly crowded with people harassing the seals, getting too close or flushing them into the water with dogs and loud noise, as well as with self-appointed seal police harassing visitors. The climate became hostile and the experience of visiting the beach and watching the seals became unpleasant. I didn’t spend much time there for years. This winter a friend of mine who is a pinniped expert was in town so we met up to observe the newborn pups as they appeared and then matured until being weaned only six weeks later. We had the good luck to witness a few births as well, which was exciting. Below are a few images from those birth events. In two images, placental blood can be seen on the pup which is only a few minutes old. In two other images Western sea gulls are seen hovering over a mother with her newborn pup. We were concerned the sea gulls would harass the pup but in fact the gulls appeared more interested in the placental material which is born shortly after the pup. We saw at least one very young pup, probably just a few minutes old, that was born in the water and then came up on the beach, swimming quite well right from the get go. Soon after the mother and pup came on the beach to rest, the placenta was born and can be seen being washed down the beach behind the pup. ¬†Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Newborn harbor seal pup watches a Western seagull approach.  The gull is trying to pick at placenta on the sandy beach as the seal pup, born just moments before, watches and tries to understand what is going on. Within an hour of being born, this pup had learned to nurse and had entered the ocean for its first swim, Phoca vitulina richardsi, La Jolla, California

Newborn harbor seal pup watches a Western seagull approach. The gull is trying to pick at placenta on the sandy beach as the seal pup, born just moments before, watches and tries to understand what is going on. Within an hour of being born, this pup had learned to nurse and had entered the ocean for its first swim.
Image ID: 39076
Species: Pacific harbor seal, Phoca vitulina richardsi
Location: La Jolla, California

A newborn harbor seal pup, only a few minutes old, is nuzzled by its mother shortly after birth. Blood is still on the tiny pups fur coat.  The pair will nuzzle frequently to solidify the bond they must maintain as the pup is nearly helpless. In just four to six weeks the pup will be weaned off its mothers milk and must forage for its own food, Phoca vitulina richardsi, La Jolla, California

A newborn harbor seal pup, only a few minutes old, is nuzzled by its mother shortly after birth. Blood is still on the tiny pups fur coat. The pair will nuzzle frequently to solidify the bond they must maintain as the pup is nearly helpless. In just four to six weeks the pup will be weaned off its mothers milk and must forage for its own food.
Image ID: 39073
Species: Pacific harbor seal, Phoca vitulina richardsi
Location: La Jolla, California

Newborn harbor seal pup is protected by its mother from a seagull. The seagull most likely wants to feed on the placenta, but it may also peck at and injure the pup. The seal mother does a good job of keeping birds off its newborn pup.  Within an hour of being born, this pup had learned to nurse and had entered the ocean for its first swim, Phoca vitulina richardsi, La Jolla, California

Newborn harbor seal pup is protected by its mother from a seagull. The seagull most likely wants to feed on the placenta, but it may also peck at and injure the pup. The seal mother does a good job of keeping birds off its newborn pup. Within an hour of being born, this pup had learned to nurse and had entered the ocean for its first swim.
Image ID: 39075
Species: Pacific harbor seal, Phoca vitulina richardsi
Location: La Jolla, California

A newborn harbor seal pup in La Jolla, only a few minutes old, is nuzzled by its mother shortly after birth. Blood is still on the tiny pups fur coat.  The pair will nuzzle frequently to solidify the bond they must maintain as the pup is nearly helpless. In just four to six weeks the pup will be weaned off its mothers milk and must forage for its own food, Phoca vitulina richardsi

A newborn harbor seal pup in La Jolla, only a few minutes old, is nuzzled by its mother shortly after birth. Blood is still on the tiny pups fur coat. The pair will nuzzle frequently to solidify the bond they must maintain as the pup is nearly helpless. In just four to six weeks the pup will be weaned off its mothers milk and must forage for its own food.
Image ID: 39077
Species: Pacific harbor seal, Phoca vitulina richardsi
Location: La Jolla, California

Pacific Harbor Seal Mother and Newborn Pup Emerge from the Ocean, they will remain close for four to six weeks until the pup is weaned from its mother's milk, Phoca vitulina richardsi, La Jolla, California

Pacific Harbor Seal Mother and Newborn Pup Emerge from the Ocean, they will remain close for four to six weeks until the pup is weaned from its mother's milk.
Image ID: 39094
Species: Pacific harbor seal, Phoca vitulina richardsi
Location: La Jolla, California

A newborn harbor seal pup in the water at the oceans edge, born just moments before in the ocean and immediately able to swim ashore. The pups placenta and mother are seen in the background, Phoca vitulina richardsi, La Jolla, California

A newborn harbor seal pup in the water at the oceans edge, born just moments before in the ocean and immediately able to swim ashore. The pups placenta and mother are seen in the background.
Image ID: 39101
Species: Pacific harbor seal, Phoca vitulina richardsi
Location: La Jolla, California

Newborn harbor seal pup just a few minutes old, has already taken to the water to learn to swim and forage. Here it is coming ashore on a sand beach, splashed by small wave as it emerges from the ocean, Phoca vitulina richardsi, La Jolla, California

Newborn harbor seal pup just a few minutes old, has already taken to the water to learn to swim and forage. Here it is coming ashore on a sand beach, splashed by small wave as it emerges from the ocean.
Image ID: 39102
Species: Pacific harbor seal, Phoca vitulina richardsi
Location: La Jolla, California

A newborn harbor seal pup rests alongside its mother, as placenta is born from the mother just a few moments after the pup was born. Within an hour of being born, this pup had learned to nurse and had entered the ocean for its first swim, Phoca vitulina richardsi, La Jolla, California

A newborn harbor seal pup rests alongside its mother, as placenta is born from the mother just a few moments after the pup was born. Within an hour of being born, this pup had learned to nurse and had entered the ocean for its first swim.
Image ID: 39110
Species: Pacific harbor seal, Phoca vitulina richardsi
Location: La Jolla, California

About Phil Colla

I am a natural history photographer. I enjoy making compelling images in the ocean, on land, and in the air. I have maintained the Natural History Photography blog since 2005 and my searchable Natural History Photography Library since 1997. Here are some tear sheets and behind the scenes views. Thanks for looking!