Elephant seals have taken over a Northern California beach due to the government shutdown.
At Point Reyes National Seashore, there is a population of about 1,500 elephant seals. Elephant seals get their name from the extremely loud roaring noise that the bulls can make thanks to their enormous size and trunk-like noses. And when we say big, we mean huge: some male elephant seals can reach 16 feet long and weigh up to 6,600 lbs.
Normally, these elephant seals stick to the non-touristy spots of Reyes National Shore, around the Chimney Beach area. In order to gently discourage the colony’s migration, park staff would show up and shake tarps at them. It doesn’t really scare them, but according to park staff member John Dell'Osso, it does “annoy them,” and encourages them to move to a different location.
However, park staff was not available during the government shutdown. When the park reopened on Jan 27th, staff found that a colony of between 50-60 adults had taken over Drake Beach, a popular tourist destination.
This part of the year is typically when female elephant seals are nursing or birthing their pups, so there are also around 35 pups on the beach, according to San Francisco Gate News. This makes it tricky for park staff to relocate the colony as the male seals will be fiercely territorial and the pups will make the females want to stay.
Unfortunately, the presence of this colony is causing problems for the park. The seals have collapsed fencing as they shuffle about and have even taken over the nearby parking lot. One seal managed to shade itself until a park bench at a nearby cafe.
They’ve also taken over the road from Sir Francis Drake Boulevard all the way down to the beach.
But without a concrete plan to get rid of them, Reyes Seashore staff have decided to just let them stay for now. The road leading to the beach has been temporarily closed in order to ensure that nobody hits an elephant seal with their car or otherwise disturbs the seals. Park staff are even considering guided tours of the colony--with an expert seal handler of course.