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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 5000 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.

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. Click for current information on Weather at the rookery. To know what is happening in the rookery at this time of year, click HERE.

Note the Google Translate box in the upper left corner 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.

Current weather at the rookery and tides for today

The site includes guest photographs in our Photo Album section under E-Seals. We invite photographers interested in being included to click the ASK US link above and request inclusion. The webmaster reserves the rights of selection, sizing, and duration of the show.

Catestrophic Molt - April to September

As March ends, with the beach still heavily populated by weaned pups, the juveniles return after about five months at sea along with adult females that were on the beach for a month in the December to February birthing and breeding period. As they each rest on the beach they begin to look very ragged as their outer layer of skin and all of their hair begins to fall off in pieces of various sizes. They might reasonably be thought diseased by the uninformed observer. They are quite well however.

To avoid serious heat loss in the ocean, the elephant seals keep their blood inside the blubber layer and therefore cannot, as we and other land mammals do, replace dead skin and hair cells throughout the year. Instead, they have evolved to do that replacement annually while on shore in the rookery where the air is warmer than the sea and conducts heat away from the body much more slowly. As the new skin and hair begin to grow, the old falls off in patches of various sizes, resulting in their blotchy appearance.

The old skin and hair - looking yellow and brown - are largely gone mid-way through the month and a beautiful silvery gray skin appears. By the end of the month the new hair has grown enough that they have a grayish beige appearance as the head for the ocean. The pregnant females will be at sea for approximately eight months with the new pup developing inside. The juveniles are out for about five months, returning for the fall haul-out in the fall.

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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. Suite 3B
San Simeon, Ca  93452

Last edited July 21, 2012

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