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Friends of the Elephant Seal is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating people about elephant seals and other marine life and to teaching stewardship for the ocean off the central coast of California

 

The Northern Elephant Seal, Mirounga angustirostris, is an extraordinary marine mammal. It spends eight to ten months a year in the open ocean, diving 1000 to 5800 feet deep for periods of fifteen minutes to two hours, and migrating thousands of miles, twice a year, to its land based rookery for birthing, breeding, molting and rest. The Piedras Blancas rookery, on Highway 1 seven miles north of San Simeon on the California Central Coast, is home to about 17,000 animals. The area is open for viewing every day of the year and there is no admission fee or reservation required. It is located 14 miles north of Cambria and 89 miles south of Monterey at 35° 39' 48" N and 121° 15' 28" W. The viewing areas are accessable to wheel chairs.

If there is something you want to know about elephant seals, or about other marine mammals that inhabit this area of the California coast, please ASK US. To know what is happening in the rookery at this time of year, click HERE.

Note the Google Translate box at the top of each web page. It provides for translation of the web pages into any of more than 50 languages. It is a machine translation and, as such, will in some cases be awkward or incorrect. For this we apologize.

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The site includes guest photographs in ou. We invite photographers interested in being included to click the ASK US link above and mrequest inclusion. The webmaster reserves the rights of selection, sizing, and duration of the show.

 

The Catastrophic Molt

Moving your cursor over the image will pause the slide show.

Beginning in late March, but primarily in April and May, the juveniles that were on the beach last fall and the adult females that were here in late December until early March return for the molt.  They each fast on the beach for about a month, growing new skin and hair and shedding the old.  Around the first of May we have the largest population of seals in the rookery – close to 5000 on the beaches adjacent to the parking lot.  The main activity observed is the frequent sparring of the juvenile males.

These females and juveniles are followed, in June through August, by the sub-adult and adult males coming in to molt.  Since only a small percent of male pups survive to reach this age group, the numbers on the beach during this period is small – but the animals are large.  When these animals come next, in the winter months, dominance is very important but during the molt it plays no role but the mock battles seen with the juveniles continue with the sub-adults.

Our skin and hair cells also die and fall off and they are replaced by new cells, nourished in their development by our blood.  Because the elephant seal’s internal temperature is the same as ours and the surrounding ocean is near freezing, they keep their blood inside their blubber layer when at sea to avoid the energy loss they would experience otherwise.  Since they do not circulate the blood next to the skin while at sea, they cannot grow new cells there.  Therefore they come on shore in the warmer and less conductive environment there.  Each seal comes to the beach once each year for what is called a “catastrophic molt.”

 

Friends of the Elephant Seal
PO Box 490 
Cambria, CA  93428 
Phone: (805) 924-1628
Fax: (805) 924-1629


Office / Visitor Center
Plaza del Cavalier
250 San Simeon Ave.
San Simeon, Ca  93452
fes@elephantseal.org