Elephant seals return to Ano Nuevo State Park

December 15, 2010 8:26:51 PM PST
Back and bigger than ever, the elephant seals have returned to Ano Nuevo State Park. The largest mainland breeding colony in the world is now open for tours.

Four thousand, maybe as much as 5,000 pounds, the elephant seals are beginning to beach themselves at Ano Nuevo State Park along the San Mateo County coast.

"Besides the five or six here, over the hill there are more," naturalist Nolan Howell said. "I hear there is a pregnant female; I haven't seen her yet."

Last week the big behemoths began their annual mid-December through mid-March breeding season. Males, about 5,000, with their signature snouts and females more demur at 1,200 pounds. Rangers believe the mammals winter at Ano Nuevo because there is more space. They used to breed on adjacent Ano Nuevo Island. The breeding season is rough, not a ton of fun for the males.

"They give off a grunitng sound, they start slamming onto each other and biting each other's neck and you can feel the earth move under your feet when that happens," ranger Terry Kiser said.

By mid January there will be about 2,000 seal pups on the beach.

Wednesday, rangers began leading the public on two hour guided tours to see the seals. There are only about 150 now but in two weeks the count should be 2,000.

One woman drove in from Arizona for the tour.

"This is one of a few places in California or the world where you can view wildlife in this kind of setting," Riser said.


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