Elephant Seals Returning to Point Reyes National Seashore For Breeding

Northern elephant seals are coming ashore at Point Reyes National Seashore for breeding and pupping. Photo by Flauto via flickr.

They're big, the males are ugly, and it's best to keep your distance. Yep, it's time for the Northern elephant seals to breed and pup at Point Reyes National Seashore.

With bulls weighing as much as 5,000 pounds, and cows "only" between 1,200 and 2,000 pounds, elephant seals are animals it's probably pretty wise to stay a good distance from, particularly when they're breeding or bringing youngsters into the world.

With that in mind, and no doubt to give the seals some peace and quiet, Point Reyes Superintendent Don Neubacher has closed the seashore's beaches from the South Beach parking lot on south until the end of April. There's also a temporary restriction in place at the far southern end of Drakes Beach and south of the Lifeboat Station.

The best viewing area for elephant seals is the overlook near the Chimney Rock parking lot. The elephant seals can be viewed from now until April, at which time the pups are weaned from their mothers and head out to sea. The viewing area for elephant seals is along the Elephant Seal Overlook Trail that recently was rehabilitated with financial assistance from the California Coastal Conservancy and Point Reyes National Seashore Association.

So far more than 80 pups have been spotted at the national seashore since the first arrived on December 19. As of this past Tuesday, 633 northern elephant seals had been observed by Park Service researchers in the Point Reyes Headlands. For the next month or so, the numbers of elephant seals returning to the beaches will continue to increase until the peak of births occurs in late January. During the 2007 breeding season, the highest number of elephant seals in the headlands occurred on February 1st with 1,290 animals counted.

Seashore officials say that almost half of all of the elephant seals in the Point Reyes Headlands are easily visible on north Drakes Beach from the Elephant Seal Overlook.

Dogs will still be allowed on leash at North Beach, Kehoe Beach north, and the southern portion of Limantour Beach.