St. Paul: Log #6 - Running with Scissors

Do you remember when you were little and your parents would tell you to never run with a sharp object in your hand? Well, that rule definitely does not apply during pup shearing on St. Paul! Out here you have a pair of sharp sheep shears strapped to your hip and when a group of pups are gathered together and the signal (it usually looks like that hand gesture from Neo in the Matrix... got the visual?) is given you move as fast as you can over wet, slippery rocks to get to them. The picture below gives you an idea of the topography that we deal with out on the rookeries.

The Gorbatch rookery - rocks, rain and rubber boots..... what a combo.

The goal each day is to shear the selected number of pups as quickly and accurately as possible so that we can remove ourselves from the rookery and allow the bull males and their harems to come back up to their territory. So in this situation, running with scissors is recommended (safely, of course). Let me tell you, never before have I felt so uncoordinated! As I try to keep up with everyone else heading to the group of pups there is a constant thought on repeat in my head... stand up, don't fall, stand up, don't fall. I was so grateful to have knee pads on! :)

I asked plenty of questions prior to this trip and felt fairly prepared to head to AK but the one thing I wish they had told me was to go to the gym... A LOT! This is quite a work out. We start our day at 9AM and finish when we get to the end of the rookery. For the next two days those rookeries are Reef and Tolstoi. Some days will be shorter than others but everyday is both energetically exhausting and exhilarating. Everyone helps each other out though, so if you haven't sheared enough pups and someone else has finished, they will shear one for you. This is a team effort with a common goal: Find out what is happening to the Northern fur seal population.

One of the highlights of the day is lunchtime. No, not because I get to sit down. It is because we eat right out on the rookery. We usually move up to the haul out area and find a place where the sub-adult males are not snoozing. However, it is close enough to them to observe their behavior and take some pictures. Here I am with a few young males relaxing in the background. I may be tired but pauses in the day like this one give me a chance to reflect on why I am here and how amazing these animals are, and that is enough to push through the afternoon.


1 comment:

  1. Those are so adorable. You must take 50 pictures of them. Or better yet 500 as fur seals are the spiffiest things.


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