Elephant Seals

Who can resist those lumbering, loud monstrosities on the beach.  This is the time of the year you really want to try to stop by the two Northern California locations, Ano Nuevo State Reserve (north of Monterey) or Piedras Blancas (about 5 miles north of Hearst Castle), and see the Elephant Seals (named for their large size and the long pendulous noses on the males).  The breeding season is in December, when the first males arrive.  From fourteen to sixteen feet long, 2 ½ tons, the huge bulls have violent battles to establish dominance.  In late December thru mid February, females arrive and form “harems” and then give birth 3-6 days later.  Much smaller than the males, 10-12 feet and 1,200 to 2,000 pounds, females normally give birth to one pup that she will nurse for 25-28 days.

It’s fascinating to watch these creatures.  The ‘alpha’ males fighting off the young males for dominance in the group.  Moms and babies laying in the sun.  This past year, one of the large males decided to go ‘walk about’ and crossed the Coast Highway from the Piedras Blancas area.  Being so big, they still move very fast, and the Rangers couldn’t chase him back.  So, he spent a few days seeing what was greener on the other side of the hill and then he moseyed back.
Visit www.video.nationalgeographic.com/video/sealcam/ for a live Seal Cam.

Here’s a schedule of their typical year:

Female elephant seals continue to arrive on the shoreline. Peak of births usually are the last half of the month.
Elephant seal births continue. The peak of mating is around Valentine’s Day. More females leave.
Last adult elephant seals leave.
Female and juvenile elephant seals return to molt.
May Female and juvenile elephant seals molt.
Sub-adult male elephant seal return to molt.
Sub-adult and adult males molt.
Last adult elephant seals molt.
Young-of-the-year and juvenile elephant seals haul out to rest.
Young-of-the-year and juvenile elephant seals haul out to rest.
Subadult elephant seal males haul out. Mature males begin arriving at the end of the month.
Elephant seal bulls continue to return. Females arrive. The first birth is usually mid-month.

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