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Sunday, December 16, 2012

ELEPHANT SEALS - CAMBRIA, CALIFORNIA

ELEPHANT SEALS
PIEDRAS BLANCAS, CALIFORNIA

ELEPHANT SEALS
PIEDRAS BLANCAS
CALIFORNIA HIGHWAY 1
12 Miles North of Cambria
and 4 Miles North of Entrance to Hearst Castle
Donations and Information:
FRIENDS OF THE ELEPHANT SEAL
P.O. BOX 490 
CAMBRIA, CA  93428

The Elephant Seal Rockery at Piedras Blancas is an ideal location for seals because it is protected by the Piedras Blancas point from storms from the northwest and has a wide, sandy beach that offers protection from high water for the pups as well as a kelp forest that helps to keep predators away.  After driving along Highway 1, this is a great place to stop and just enjoy nature and the huge seals that sleep, burp, scratch and pass gas on the white sandy beach.  We were here as the first pup of the 2013 season was born on the beach.  The pup stayed close to its mother as she kept the birds away.  The male Elephant Seal can grow to 5,000 lbs and 16 feet long.  During the December thru February mating season, males battle for breeding rights for up to 100 days - without food or water.  During 8 months at sea, they dive continuously without touching land.  While average dives are 20 to 30 minutes, record dives approach two hours.  A bottom feeder, the male forges on skates, rays, small sharks, whiting, crabs, shellfish, octopus and other high protein sources.  Females grow to 12 feet and 1800 lbs.  In an average of 34 days, the female loses 40% of her weight while she births, nurses, weans her pup and breeds before returning to the sea.  Feeding primarily on squid, her foraging dives in the open sea average more than 2000 feet with recorded dives up to 5700 feet.

ELEPHANT SEALS ALL SLEEPING ON THE CALIFORNIA COAST
DURING APRIL THRU AUGUST CATASTROPHIC MOLT, EACH SEAL RETURNS
TO THE BEACH FOR 4 TO 6 WEEKS TO SHED ITS SKIN
IN MARCH, JUST WEANED PUPS SPEND SEVERAL WEEKS LEARNING TO SWIM
AND DIVE BEFORE THEIR SOLO MIGRATION TO ALASKAN WATERS - AT 4 MONTHS OF AGE


AT BIRTH, PUPS ARE 60-80 POUNDS AND 3 TO 4 FEET LONG.  NURSING PUPS
GAIN 10-12 POUNDS A DAY; AT 28 DAYS, WEANED PUPS WEIGH 250 TO 300 POUNDS
THE ENTIRE POPULATION OF 17,000 IS NEVER IN THE ROOCKERY AT THE SAME TIME
THE NUMBER OF SEALS ON THE BEACH RANGES FROM HUNDREDS IN JULY AND AUGUST
TO THOUSANDS FROM JANUARY TO MAY



THE FIRST PUP OF THE SEASON BORN ON THIS DAY IN DECEMBER.
BLACK ON LEFT OF MOM.  THE BIRDS SURROUND TO EAT THE AFTER BIRTH



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