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Nerpa

Source:  Atlas Lake Baikal. - Irkutsk, 2005. - Н. 68.

The annual cycle of life activity of Baikal seal is connected with the ice. At the beginning of ice freezing, each seal makes several air­holes keeping them free from freezing by scraping off the ice with the claws on the front flippers. The wintering place for the seal is off the shore. The holes are hidden under the snowdrifts and cannot be j seen from the outside. The seal uses one large lair (logovo) for living  coming out to the surface of the ice for rest. Other lairs are of smaller sizes and called "otnyrki". Putting its nose into them, the seal breathes being at the same time in the water.                                 

Seal-calves are usually born in late February-early March. They can be born only under favourable conditions. This is a natural  regulation of the number of the seal flock depending on the amount  of available food. As a rule, a female gives birth to one calf, very seldom two. The new-born seal-calf weighs 4 kg and is 50 cm long. It  is called "belyok" because of its long white fur. In a month or two  belyok casts the coat and its fur gains its usual colour. The seal-  mother suckles her young calf for 2-2.5 months until the ice thaws, j and then they part.                                                                    

Seals live separately without forming either families or flocks. Mating takes place in April when there is still ice on Lake Baikal. Seal has a gestation period of 11 months. In late May-early June the moulting of seal fur takes place. During this period seals come out of the water onto thawing ice and lie in the sun for a long time forming the so-called moulting rookeries (urgans) of about some hundreds of seals.

Seals live throughout the whole Lake Baikal. It is difficult to give certain estimations of their number - about 60-100 thousand seals. Seals feed upon noncommercial fish of small size bullheads and golomyanka. Omul occupies insignificant place in its ration. Due to its abundance, the seal plays an important role in the balance maintenance of the lake ecosystem keeping bullheads and golomyanka from intensive reproduction. The average daily ration of the seal is from 3 to 8 kg of fish. The whole flock of the seals consumes about 500 tons offish. In summer, a small number of seals come to their rookeries. The main seal rookery is on Uskany Islands.

Since ancient times and up to now, the seal has been hunted. Fur, meat and fat of seals are used. The annual amount of seal shooting is under the control of state organizations and it is about several thousands of animals.

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