USA: elephant seals arrive in California

Northern elephant seals

From the San Francisco Chronicle in the USA:


Elephant seals whelping in park

Chuck Squatriglia

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Hundreds of elephant seals have arrived at Point Reyes National Seashore, where officials have spotted at least 21 pups and closed three stretches of coastline through April.

Biologists have counted 316 northern elephant seals in recent weeks and expect the number to climb as the breeding and birthing season continues.

The first pup of the season was spotted Dec. 19. Last year, 1,238 elephant seals wintered at Point Reyes.

The National Park Service has barred people and dogs from the area around South Beach, Drakes Beach and the lifeboat station until the end of April.

The seals are easily seen from the Elephant Seal Overlook Trail near the Chimney Rock parking lot at the end of Sir Francis Drake Boulevard by the lighthouse. See a map here.

Researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who pioneered the use of satellite tags to monitor the migrations of [northern] elephant seals have compiled one of the largest datasets available for any marine mammal species, revealing their movements and diving behavior at sea in unprecedented detail: here.

Southern elephant seals here. And here.

Team Captures Rare Footage Of Great White Shark Attack On Elephant Seal: here.

Leucistic Elephant seal: here.

Kerguelen: Elephant seals’ foraging tricks: here.

Elephant seals produce high levels of carbon monoxide in their blood naturally: here.

Southern Elephant Seals in the South Shetlands: here.

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12 thoughts on “USA: elephant seals arrive in California

  1. I have been to Pt. Reyes to see the Elephant Seals. Despite budget cuts etc. the Park Service is very careful about protecting them. You are not allowed to drive to the viewing area, but must wait to be driven in a bus. Viewing is from several hundred yards away. Even with binoculaurs, it is hard to see much of the seals, but they can easily be heard. A fun afternoon. Pt. Reyes is a great park, very close to a big city, and visited by millions of people, but still very wild. If you are in the nearby town of Pt. Reyes Station, be sure to visit Pt. Reyes books. Great bookstore in a small town.


  2. Hi Jon, thanks for this interesting comment! I have never seen northern elephant seals. However, I did see the related southern species on Campbell island, between New Zealand and Antarctica; and near the Antarctic peninsula. All the best wishes for you!


  3. Dear Friend,

    The Cape Hatteras National Seashore on North Carolina’s Outer Banks provides a home and habitat for a rich variety of plant and animal life — from loggerhead turtles to piping plovers, the American oystercatchers and other beautiful shorebirds.

    But legislation was introduced in Congress recently that would overturn a consent decree that is currently protecting critical habitat for the imperiled wildlife along our Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Learn more — and help us keep the successful protections in place »

    In April, a federal judge approved a consent decree to regulate beach driving along Cape Hatteras National Seashore. This decree was the result of local collaboration and agreement between all interested groups that depend on or cherish this beloved place — including local residents, county governments, the National Park Service, environmental groups, scientists and a coalition of Off Road Vehicle groups.

    And it’s working. Since the decree went into effect, the National Park Service is showing that local shorebirds are slowly starting to recover. The number of piping plovers on the beach increased from six pairs in 2007 to at least eight pairs, the highest number of piping plovers on the Seashore since 1998. American oystercatchers on the beach increased from 22 pairs in 2007 to 31 pairs so far this season.

    This flexible plan allows protected areas to be reopened to vehicles once wildlife is no longer using the area. Even with the consent decree’s increased protections for natural resources, over 22 of the Seashore’s 66 miles of beach remain open for driving, and almost 55 miles are open to pedestrians. According to the National Park Service, only 12 miles of the beach are closed due to the need to protect natural resources; the other closures are for seasonal or safety needs.

    But Congress is currently considering federal legislation (H.R. 6233 and S. 3113) that would overturn this local consent decree and its protection of Cape Hatteras’ Seashore and wildlife. Unfortunately, this bill would bring back a failed management plan for the Seashore’s natural resources, and would degrade a national treasure established for the enjoyment of all.

    Please take a moment to oppose this wrong-headed legislation today »
    Thank you for protecting our wild places!

    Natasha Campaign Team


  4. Huge elephant seal washes up in Georgia Strait

    Last Updated: Monday, November 24, 2008 | 2:46 PM ET
    CBC News

    Scientists were looking for more clues Monday to determine what led a giant northern elephant seal into Nanaimo’s Departure Bay.

    The seal’s massive carcass, which measured more than four metres in length and weighed 2,000 kilograms, was found floating in the harbour on the weekend.

    A necropsy revealed the dead seal had many broken bones, including its backbone, suggesting it had been hit by a large ship.

    Andrew Trites, director of the University of British Columbia’s marine mammal research unit, said the animal has been transported to a UBC research facility in the Lower Mainland.

    “It sort of defies the imagination. I think some would say it looks more like a whale than a seal. It’s the largest seal in the Northern Hemisphere,” he said.

    Trites said it’s the first time in his 28 years of work that he’s heard of an elephant seal in the Georgia Strait, which separates Vancouver Island from the mainland coast.
    Was nearly extinct

    The elephant seal was hunted to near extinction 100 years ago and may now be returning to waters it previously inhabited, Trites said.

    The animals have been observed in recent years further south at Race Rocks near Victoria, and have re-established large breeding colonies along the California coast.

    But even if the animals are returning to the Georgia Strait, Trites said, don’t expect to see an elephant seal anytime soon.

    “The chance of people seeing this on a regular basis is very small because they are spending most of the time under water with just their head and gigantic snout coming out,” he said.

    Trites said he believes elephant seal sightings are the source of many sea-monster legends.

    “I think if people do see them, their first reaction is they won’t quite believe what they saw, in fact they won’t even know what they saw, except it was something like they’ve never seen in their lives,” he said.


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