You may remember the cow Schnitzel and her two difficult years of failed reproduction. Schnitzel's pup died in 2004 and in 2005 she abandoned her pup. However, last year her pup survived to weaning. Weaning is when a mother goes back to sea, leaving a milk-fattened offspring on the beach to fend for itself. From that day forward, these pups (now weaners), who have never known anything but the island and their mother's care, must instinctively learn to swim in the ocean, avoid predators, and feed themselves.
We tag all of our pups every year, but so few return to the Farallones in subsequent years – either because they failed to survive the sharks or because they emigrated to another colony – that we only name animals older than 1 year, and typically just breeding adults.
This month, a tagged immature was spotted on