Elephant Seals Took Over This Popular California Beach During Shutdown

Feb 1, 2019

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Elephant seals are running (er, wriggling) rampant on a beach in northern California.

When government workers returned to reopen Point Reyes National Seashore on Sunday following the 35-day shutdown, they discovered that a colony of seals had taken up residence on Drakes Beach.

Occasionally, a few stray elephant seals appear on Drakes Beach, which is popular with visitors. But now, as many as 60 full-grown seals have lay claim to the wide stretch of sand — and given birth here to 35 pups.

Recent storms and high tides may have urged the seals to leave the limestone cliff-framed Chimney Beach and seek out dry sand at Drakes Beach. The seashore’s chief of interpretation and resource education, John Dell’Osso, told SFGate that management would have prevented the seals from moving over to the tourist area.

“Sometimes you go out with tarps and you shake the tarps and it annoys them and they move the other direction,” Dell’Osso explained. “It doesn’t scare them and it’s a standard technique used with elephant seals. This would have kept them farther away from tourists.”

But, with the beach left unsupervised for more than a month, there was nothing to deter the elephant seals from wandering over to Drakes Beach. The seals even knocked down a fence and spread out into the parking lot, venturing to nearby picnic tables and access ramps.

As a result, park officials have once again closed the access road to the beach, as they decided not to relocate the elephant seals while they’re nursing. For travelers interested in seeing the adventurous seals, management at Drakes Beach is considering the possibility of offering guided tours of their new elephant seal colony, so tourists can admire the seals without disturbing them.

Feature image by John Dell’Osso/Point Reyes National Seashore via the AP.

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