Monday, February 10, 2014

Elephant Seals at Año Nuevo

This weekend we went back to Año Nuevo State Park to see the Elephant Seals in their breeding season. This time we took a guided walk: the only time to see the seals from December - March. There are about 3500 seals in the park now.

We took the 1.5 mile hike into the beach where the seals assemble. Despite reports of rain, we had some good views and stayed dry for most of the tour.

The seals come to the beach to give birth, nurse and breed. They congregate together in large groups, but occasionally seek some alone time in the dunes.

Female elephant seals form into "harems" associated to give birth, nurse and then wean their pups. The females are light, sandy colored. The pups have darker, black fur, which they will shed before heading out into the ocean for the first time.

This harem is a smaller group away from the main population.

 The larger seal in the upper left is a male seal.

Another male seal.

We saw this male resting among the dunes.

We encountered this male seal on our way to view the main beach. He was likely on his own after losing a fight. You can see battle scars on his neck. The snout is the defining characteristic of the adult male elephant seal.

Hundred of seals congregate on a large beach.

Here you can see male seals (bigger, snout-nosed), females (lighter, sandy-colored) and pups (dark black).

These three pups played together. The one on the left is likely a "weaner" because it has shed its dark black coat.

Male seals fight for dominance of harems of females. The two male seals seen here are in contest with each other. You can see the tracks in the sand where they move.

The seals were very loud!

Another fight for dominance - one male forces another to leave the harem.

Males continuously established their territory, chasing each other away from the group or a particular female.

The walk back was considerably misty. We just missed the rain!

Elephant Seal Videos

Videos of our trip to the park!

Elephant Seals at Ano Nuevo

Seal Pups

Battle of Two Male Seals

Male Elephant Seals Fight over a Female I

Male Elephant Seals Fight over a Female II