Despite the past year maybe not being a vintage one on terra firma, Saaremaa's ringed seal population has had a much better time of it, ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported Wednesday night, with more births than in previous years.
Seal expert Mart Jüssi told AK that the successful breeding season so far this spring was most likely the result of a greater amount of sea ice than in recent, milder winters (when the reverse had been the case - ed.).
Jüssi, who has been studying the animals for 30 years, said: "It seems that a large proportion of them took to the ice to give birth, while those who were too late did not find sufficient space on the ice."
"This has been such a very confusing year, but the observations fit well with what we already know about seals. We could but guess what they do, and it was was good to see it."
Those observations are helped by a seal camera rigged up near colonies, though this is sometimes hampered by seals chewing through vital cables, as has happened more than once recently.
Expectant mother seals often migrate from as far away as the Baltic coasts of Sweden, Poland, Denmark, Germany and Lithuania, Jüssi said, which gives further credence to the claim that Saaremaa's coast is an optimum birthing location.
At the same time, Jüssi said, many animals will remain in place through summer, with numbers likely to be in the thousands.
"We found 3,500 one time a few years ago," Jüssi said.
Continued problems with the camera cable may mean this stays shrouded in mystery – once fixed, returning workmen said they found the cable had already been tampered with by the privacy-seeking Phocidae.
The AK segment (in Estonian) is here.
Editor: Andrew Whyte