Monday, December 26, 2011

Elephant Seals near Piedras Blancas

Just south of Piedras Blancas Lighthouse, and 4 miles north of Hearst Castle is a Northern Elephant Seal rookery. December and January are prime months to visit because that's when the babies are born. We drove down there this morning from Carmel and had a wonderful visit with these interesting animals.

Elephant Seals were almost hunted to extinction in the late 1800s, but in 1990 two dozen seals came to this beach and eventually a rookery was established and now several hundred babies are born here every year.

The bulls arrive as early as November just waiting for the females...

and practicing their fighting techniques. (These are younger males.)

The pregnant females start arriving in December and the first babies are generally born around the middle of December. The mothers nurse the babies for only 4 weeks, after which they mate and then they slip into the ocean to eat. They don't eat at all while waiting for and nursing their babies.

The babies will teach themselves how to swim and fish, but the rich milk the mothers provide has plumped them up to 300 pounds which sustains them while they are learning. The docent told us that the pup above is only a couple of days old.

While all this drama is happening, the old males just snooze and wait for Valentine's Day.

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