OK, you ask, how do we know it’s Leopold again? So far only one has been positively identified as having been here both years, and it happens to be Leopold. I had an inkling when I saw him on December 29th – that look in his eyes, the way he came over to inspect us and then lost interest, the way he lost three penguins in a row before making a successful kill. Leopold was curious, and he was never that good at catching penguins. Definitely not as good as the huge seal we watched kill 11 in a row on Jan. 7th last year (we didn’t name him – he was mean, his fat head was clearly nurtured by penguin blubber and his eyes were dark, unempathetic wells). Seals have style, and Leopold is clumsy, inquisitive, and even a little charming. OK, I may be anthropomorphizing here, but I had a definite feeling of familiarity when he looked us in the eye from beneath the ice foot.
Then Kirsten had the bright idea of comparing leopard seal headshots from the past two years. They all have unique face markings. She and Grant carefully combed through all the photos and decided that the one we called Leopold last year was indeed seen again on December 29th. He has a scar (or dimple) on the left cheek just above the edge of his lips and a circle of 8-9 dots on his lower left cheek, just below and past the edge of the mouth, with three dots in the middle. His right cheek is mostly clear of dots. Not to mention that slightly derisive smile on his face.