This California beach, located just north of downtown San Simeon, is home to the northern elephant seals, a species native to the Pacific coastline of North American. Male seals are viewable year round, while females come to the beach only two times a year. The first time is during the winter months when they give birth and breed. The second return is during spring when they molt.
The Elephant Seals at Piedras Blancas
Friends of the Elephant Seal: a non profit organization that is devoted to the protection of the beach and its northern elephant seal population
Address: 250 San Simeon Ave., San Simeon, CA 93453
The females return to the beach to give birth in December and February. Typically the pups are born only 4 to 5 days after their mothers return. At birth, a pup weights between 60 to 80 pounds. The mother nurses her pup for 24 to 28 days. During this time, they are privy to the richest milk in the mammal world.
This is followed by the mating season, which occurs during the last 3 to 5 days of nursing and peaks around mid-February. Following the mating season, the pups are weaned from their mother’s milk and the females return to the ocean, where they live primarily individually.
During their nursing period, the pups quadrupled in size, but will loose about a third of their newly gained body weight during the “weaning fast.” The fast is the 8 to 10 weeks they will remain on shore. It is a period of time filled with adventures, learning to swim before they head off to foredge on their own.
Starting in late March but primarily in April and May, the juveniles and adult females will return to the beach to molt. They will stay on the beach for approximately a month, at which time they are fasting. The largest population of seals on the beach tends to be around the 1st of May. Sparing between juvenile males becomes a common site.
Following the juvenile and female molting season, the adult males molt in June through August. The molt allows for the skin and hair cells to die and be replenished by new cell growth. Since the internal temperature of a seal is directly affected by their surrounding temperatures, they come to shore to seak a warmer temperature and calmer environment while they shed their old skin and develop a new layer. This allows their body to stay warmer, due to the outside temperature being extremely warm compared to the near freezing temperatures the ocean water is suseptable to. If the seals stayed in the ocean while molting, the energy required by their bodys would be near fatal if not catastrophic.
The diet of the females and males is drastically different. The females primarily eat squid, while the male diet is more varried ranging from small sharks and rays to bottom dwelling fish. Most dives are approximately 20 minutes long, though seals are known to be able to dive for an hour or longer. The average depth of a single dive is around 1,000 to 2,000 feet. The deepest dive ever recorded was 5,000 feet.