Big love on the Point Reyes National Seashore -- for elephant seals

DRAKE'S BEACH, Calif. (KGO) -- Elephant seal viewing season is reaching its peak, which means both opportunities and limitations.

Drake's Beach is partially closed because of all the animals, but that isn't stopping people from getting as close as they can to see them.

On the Point Reyes National Seashore, love is in the air.

Its lovely music bellows forth in guttural utterances that sound as if they emanate from voice boxes buried deep inside urban sewers.

Only elephant seals understand the nuanced undertones.

"Oooohugh! Oooohuh! G-g-g-g-g-ugh."

Now, multiply that sound by some 2,400 elephant seals along the Point Reyes National Seashore. The National Park Service says this is a record year for the species that humans hunted nearly to extinction in the mid-1800's.

"They are protected by the National Marine Mammal Protection Act," said John Dell'Osso, the seashore's chief interpreter. That is one reason why you will see closed signs posted along Drakes Beach."

Nature must have its way. The females give birth, then join harems, awaiting their next, 15-foot long, 5,000-pound, large Lothario.

"One alpha could have up to 50 females," said Sarah Codde, a National Park Service researcher.

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These elephant seals and their pups are having fun in the sun on Friday.

For a male, that definitely seems worth fighting for.

They do.

The closure is likely to continue until mid-March. And yet, Drakes Beach attracted plenty of interested humans, Friday. "I mean, who gets this close to elephant seals? Jacques Cousteau, right?" asked Ari Mathos from Wisconsin.

He has a point, especially when elephant seals do not read "closed" signs. Two of the creatures took up residence near people Friday afternoon. Don't tempt them.

"They can move incredibly fast on the beach, itself," said Dell'Osso.

"Faster than humans?" I asked.

"Faster than many," he said.

"What would happen if an elephant seal caught a human?"

"We just don't know."

"Oooohugh! Oooohuh! G-g-g-g-g-ugh."

We should be grateful that at this time of year, they're interested in their own kind.

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