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What do male seals do to females?

Male seals exhibit a variety of behaviors towards female seals during mating season. Their interactions can range from courting and mating to competition and aggression. Understanding seal behavior provides insight into their social dynamics and reproductive strategies.

Courting Females

To attract females, male seals rely heavily on visual and acoustic signaling. Large, dominant males will establish territories on breeding beaches and vocally advertise themselves to females. Male elephant seals produce loud, resonating calls to woo females. Sea lions and fur seals perform elaborate visual displays, including head bobbing, flipper waving, and arching of the back. Male harbor seals attract females by slapping their flippers on the water’s surface. This demonstrates their strength and stamina.

Establishing Dominance

Male seals frequently fight with each other to establish social dominance. The largest, most aggressive males are able to maintain prime mating territories and gain access to the most females. Males will threaten each other by gaping their mouths, vocalizing, and lunging. Actual fights involve biting and wrestling, with the losers often sustaining injuries. Dominant males will also forcibly herd females into their territories to prevent rival males from mating with them.

Mating with Females

When a receptive female seal enters his territory, the male will herd her and position himself between her and the water to prevent her escape. He initiates mating by vocalizing and nudging the female with his snout. If she is unreceptive, the male may bite or hold her with his front flippers to subdue her. Actual mating takes place in the water and involves the male mounting the female from behind and grasping her with his front flippers. Mating is frequent and prolonged during the breeding season.

Aggressive Behaviors

In addition to fighting with other males, male seals sometimes direct aggression towards females. Forcing themselves onto unreceptive females can result in injury. Males may also bite females on the rear flippers during the mating act. The purpose of this behavior is not well understood, but it could function as a display of dominance. Male harassment can disrupt nursing and lead to the separation of mothers and pups. Female elephant seals often flee into the water to avoid males biting them.


Male seal behavior during breeding season centers on gaining access to females for mating. Courting displays attract females, while fights establish dominance. Actual mating involves mounting and grasping females. Aggression against resistant females also occurs. Understanding the mating strategies and social dynamics of seals provides important insight into their reproduction and behavior.