Pt. Reyes National Seashore is located some 30 miles north of San Francisco. Peggy and I went there last week to celebrate my birthday. It’s been a go-to place for me since the 60s. In addition to spectacular scenery, great hikes, yummy food, and one of the best small bookstores I’ve ever been in, we were entertained by the wildlife: tule elk, a pair of sushi eating coyotes, and elephant seals (plus some cows). Today, I want to do a teaser on our trip by featuring the elephant seals. I’ll get back to the rest after I finish my Harris Beach series.
Elephant seals are amazing creatures that spend up to 80% of their lives at sea— 90 % of it underwater! If that doesn’t seem remarkable enough, consider this: their normal dives for food range between 1000 and 2000 feet deep (305 to 610 meters). They can dive for up to an hour and a half before returning to the surface for three to five minutes of breathing. Semi-annual feeding binges take the males on a 13,000-mile roundtrip journey to the Aleutian Islands and females on a 11,000-mile roundtrip into the North Pacific.
They were absent from Pt. Reyes for 150 years. In fact, they were close to absent forever. Like whales, they came close to being hunted to extinction for their oil. Processing the blubber from one bull can produce up to 25 gallons. They were saved because the Mexico and the US banned hunting them in the 1920s. Gradually, they have returned to their old breeding grounds. When I first started visiting Pt. Reyes in the 60s, they were unheard of in the area. Today there are over 3000 that return annually to breed.
The Park Service had set up a barrier to separate the seals from the people who had come to admire them at Drake’s Beach. Those closest to the barrier were bulls. You can tell by their size and uniquely shaped noses. One had crossed the barrier and was worrying the rangers. “He’s escaping from the other bulls,” a ranger explained. Maybe.
A little girl next to me exclaimed, “I think he is heading to the snack bar to get fish sticks!”
“I’d bet on ice cream,” I responded. “Look at how big he is.” The girl looked at me dubiously. “Fish sticks” she insisted.
Peggy and I spent an hour watching these wonderful creations of nature who are so competent at sea and ungainly on land. They move like an inchworm, using their dorsal flippers to pull their front half forward and then using their rear flippers to push the rest of their body along like a rolling wave. Imagine moving several tons of fat. The ones we watched would make two or three of these moves and then collapse to rest.
Given their trunk-like noses and appealing eyes, Peggy and I were particularly attracted to the looks on their faces.
Monday’s Blog-a-Book… “It’s 4 AM and a Bear Is Standing on Top of Me”: I move outside in the summer to enjoy nature but hire the family’s dogs and cats to protect me from the ghosts.
Wednesday’s Blog-a-Book… “The Bush Devil Ate Sam”: Held at gunpoint, I consider the odds of running over the gunman versus getting shot.
36 thoughts on “The Charming Elephant Seals of Pt. Reyes National Seashore”
I’m so glad you posted this. On our one trip to Pt. Reyes, the area was socked in by fog, and we saw very little. Now we have another reason for a return trip — seals! And they’re mammoth! What a beautiful part of our country! Thanks for sharing.
I’ll be sharing more of the beauty, Rusha. We had a week of great weather. Fall, winter and spring are often the best time to visit if you miss the storms. Fog is much more prevalent in the summer. Thanks. –Curt
Nature never ceases to amaze me and with this fantastic post you add even more
beauty and awesome creatures to delight us all.
Thank you, Curt.
It is a marvelous world, Miriam. And elephant seals are great representatives. Thanks! 🙂 –Curt
We have seen them at this location too. Incredible photos that put a smile on my face.
We felt the same way, Sue. It’s hard not to enjoy this large creatures doing what comes natural to them. Thanks. –Curt
I am always happy to hear that a species has been allowed to return to their natural way of life! Hopefully when all the pandemic guidelines go away, people won’t re-destroy that which has had the chance to repair this past year!
Nature has enjoyed the reprieve, G. 🙂
We saw them there in 2012. I had no idea they spent so much time in the water. They looked liked they never left the beach.
By the way, ice cream!
Or perhaps that’s because I impulse bought a quart this afternoon.
2012 reminds me of how long it has been since I returned to Pt. Reyes. One of the few disadvantages of our moving to Oregon. I won’t let it be so long again. Peggy and I have committed to getting there at least once a year. It was like returning home, Ray.
Yay on the ice cream! –Curt
The seals look very gentle. I wonder how the males and females get together to mate? I suppose the female checks out their noses or the size of their doleful eyes. Who knows?
Happy belated birthday. What a great way to spend the day.
Thanks, Peggy. The day and the week! 🙂
Something new I learned today LOL I didn’t know they can stay so much underwater!! Fantastic photos😍
Hope you’re having a great Sunday!
Thanks, Christie. 🙂 They are marvelous creatures. Their ability to hang out underwater and dive so deeply is truly amazing. –Curt
Happy belated birthday! What a great way to spend it! My day in Point Reyes was foggy, as mentioned. If I’d gotten to see seals like this, I probably would have stayed there forever!
It’s somewhere I’ve always thought I could live at forever, Juliann. There is so much to love…
How lucky you were to spend time with those glorious creations.
I absolutely agree, AC. And I can’t wait until next time! –Curt
OMG these pics are fabulous Curt and so glad you had such a great time.
The day was crystal clear and can often be foggy. Makes me want to go again soon!
loved him at the snack bar… 🤣🤣🤣🤣
Thanks, Cindy. They were photogenic, what can I say. 🙂 Peggy and I had a lot of fun watching and photographing them. It was like the snacker guy was posing for us. –Curt
They did look like they enjoyed posing alright! I bet you did… 💖💖💖👏👏Poser!!!
They are certainly ‘poser’s when it comes to impressing the girls. 🙂
Just like the men I know… not you of course tho!!!! you’re a keeper… Peggy will attest to that! 💖
I hope so… She seems to enjoy having me around. 🙂
Of course she does! She’d a kicked you out long ago, if not.. 🤣❤️
Yeah, we kind of like each other… Grin. A lot!
Such interesting looking creatures! Love the close-ups. We need to get down to Point Reyes soon. Thanks for the road trip inspiration!
One can never go wrong making a trip to Pt. Reyes— regardless of wherever else one travels in the world. 🙂
Agreed! We have lots of world-class places here within driving distance. No need to fly!
Some of my all-time favorite places! 🙂
I learned a good bit I didn’t know about these creatures, Curt. Great post! The photos, of course, are a disarming combination of weird and charming. I’d love to see these in real life. And I must add — that little girl was being perfectly logical, but there’s no doubt in my mind that our boy was after ice cream, not fish sticks!
Thanks, Linda. Peggy and I had a lot of fun visiting with the Elephant Seals. They really are magnificent creatures. As for the little girl, you have me laughing. 🙂 –Curt