Galapagos Wildlife | < 1 MIN READ

Sea Lion Pupping Season in November: The End of a Beautiful Period

User Avatar Written by: Nathalie Moeller
Sea lion pups resting on the sand.

Galapagos sea lion pupping season is as cute as it is intense. In spite of the adorable and endearing nature of these newborn Galapagos sea lion pups, the modus operandi surrounding the protection and raising of these pups is a lot of work on the mother’s behalf. During this time of year, guests can witness Galapagos sea lion pupping season as it comes to an end (typically during the peak months of the Dry Season which are August, September, and October). From spectacularly lucky moments of witnessing an actual sea lion birth to seeing just how protective the mothers are of their newborns, the Galapagos Islands astound each and every visitor with its amazing display of wildlife. In this blog, we take a look at the fascinating features of the Galapagos sea lion pupping season.  

Newborn Galapagos sea lion.

Newborn Galapagos sea lion.

Mothers and Their Pups 

Mother sea lions don’t nurse their pups for a very long time. Actually, nursing lasts for around a week after the pup is born, after which the mothers go back to the sea to find food. The pup is usually left alone on the beach or with other pups whose moms have also gone to the sea. When the mother comes back, it can be a little tricky to find their respective pup, which is why they start barking until her pup recognizes her call and answers back. However, no matter how hungry the pup might be, the mother won’t nurse it until it has passed her “smell test.” It’s only through smell that she can confirm that it’s actually her pup that she’s going to feed and that it hasn’t been touched by humans.  

A mother sea lion smelling its pup.

A mother sea lion smelling its pup.

This serves as a reminder of one of the Galapagos National Park’s most important rules: do not touch the animals! This rule is two-fold. First, it not only keeps you safe from animals that don’t know how to interact with humans (even though Galapagos wildlife is well known for its fearlessness); and second, because touching them can greatly disrupt their lives. In the case of sea lion pups, if a human should happen to touch it (because let’s admit it, they are unbearably cute), the mother will smell it and abandon the pup right away. Abandoned pups usually don’t have really good chances of surviving on their own if they haven’t yet learned how to fish for themselves.  

Galapagos Sea Lion Pupping Season Bonus Feature: Delayed Implantation

Even though you can see Galapagos sea lion pups year-round, there is definitely a Galapagos sea lion pupping season peak, which coincides with the cold Humboldt Current that brings in waters that are rich in nutrients and food. Because Galapagos sea lions being opportunistic breeders, they are able to time their pup’s birth. Due to the fact that female sea lions can get pregnant only a week after giving birth, a second pup would need to be born 9 months later when food is scarcer.

But in order to avoid this untimely event, they go through delayed implantation. This means that once the egg is fertilized, it stays in the mother’s uterus – where it can stay for up to three months – until the time is right. Only then will the egg be implanted in the uterine wall and continue to develop normally. This makes it possible for the mother to give birth when the cold currents (and more food) are back in the Galapagos. 

A colony of sea lions.

A colony of sea lions spotted during the pupping season.

Galapagos sea lion pupping season is but one fascinating feature of the whole Enchanted Isles experience. In fact, there’s a whole bunch of BIG15 iconic species that guests are able to experience alongside this natural phenomenon that is Galapagos sea lion pupping season! Book your trip today on any one of our Galapagos itineraries to experience the wonderful, living treasures that the islands are home too!