My day with the Elephant Seals

October 20, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

Anyone who knows me knows... 1) I love photography 2) I love the ocean 3) I love anything & I mean anything in the ocean.  

July 4th weekend we, my boyfriend & I took a trip up to Monterey, Ca. On the way I asked him if he would mind stopping at the elephant seal viewing area up in San Simeon (For more information check out the website at www.elephantseal.org), of course we had only been together a few months and he had NO idea what he was getting himself into, he said sure. LOL I turn into a child & I admit it. I get SO excited and I get teary eyed, I had never seen elephant seals in the wild before & of course I have my camera. 

These animals are so amazing, they are HUGE! And the nasally, guttural bark is like nothing I have ever heard, you can almost feel it inside your chest. I was in awe & Jason was so patient, he let me, be me. Crazy! I know!! I didn't want to leave, however we had too. 

Down the way, we came across a hidden area and saw a bunch of elephant seals in the water play fighting or sparing & swimming. Of course I had to stop. We hiked down to them and were the only ones there, maybe 15' away, held back by a barbed wire fence & there was a little drop off to the water below. So we were safe and the seals were safe, although I still think they all wanted hugs. Here is where Jason really had his hands full, it took every once of control in me to stay on the right side of the fence and not go to the edge and lay down and take pics because… I am my fathers daughter!! So I opted for climbing up on the fence & got some spectacular photos.

Since July I have been on a couple 8 hr whale watching trips & seen 2 elephant seals out in the open water. We don’t get to see them often down here in Southern California. A few things to know about them when you look at these pictures… 

  • The males are the ones with the larger “trunk-like” nose or proboscis. While the the females have the smaller nose.
  • To give you an idea of their size, adult males are 14 to 16 feet in length and 4,000 to 5,000 pounds in weight. The females are much smaller at about 9 to 12 feet in length and weigh 900 to 1,800 pounds.
  • In some of the pictures you will see what looks like their skin or fur peeling off, this is molting where they shed the outer layer of hair and skin. This molting process takes up to a month to complete. When it comes time to molt, they will haul out on land to shed their outer layer, and will not consume any food during this time. The females and juveniles will molt first, followed by the sub adult males, and finally the large mature males. 
  • You will see on the males, their chests are thick & calloused. This calloused or cornified chest is used in the physical fighting that goes on in the establishment of reproductive territories

If you would like to learn more, please visit www.elephantseal.org . And if you are ever up that way please stop by and visit, different seasons bring different behaviors and maybe some new pups!

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