Officials grapple with herd of elephant seals who gave birth and took over a beach during government shutdown

Female seals are staying at popular beach they took over during the shutdown where they birthed about 35 pups

Chris Riotta
New York
Saturday 09 February 2019 19:53 GMT
Elephant seals and their pups occupy Drakes Beach, Friday, 1 February 2019, in Point Reyes National Seashore, California.
Elephant seals and their pups occupy Drakes Beach, Friday, 1 February 2019, in Point Reyes National Seashore, California. (AP)

US officials are working to protect a herd of female northern elephant seals who took over a major tourist destination in California and gave birth to their pups during the federal government shutdown.

The animals “hauled out” over a stretch of the popular Drakes Beach and a nearby a visitor centre at the Point Reyes National Seashore, where female seals are viewed by tourists as they congregate during the winter months and give birth to pups every year, according to an active alert posted on the National Park Service (NPS) website.

Nearly 50 to 60 seals were reportedly left unwatched by NPS officials amid the shutdown – the longest of its kind in US history – which allowed the herd to take over areas where tourists typically view the pregnant animals from a safe distance.

The federal employees “probably would have tried to move the seals further away from the parking area” had the shutdown not occurred, John Dell’Osso, the chief of interpretation and resource education at Point Reyes National Seashore, said in a statement to Motherboard.

The site remained accessible until the seals began occupying sections of the beach near the Kenneth C Patrick Visitor Centre. The Drakes Beach road and surrounding area has since been reopened on weekends as the National Park Service determines “how best to provide visitors opportunities to view the seals at Drakes Beach in such a way as to not disturb the seals,” according to the alert.

Mr Dell’Osso described methods the National Park Service has employed in past years to wrangle the pregnant seals to portions of the landmark site without harming the animals in the statement.

“This would be done by a standard practice of using tarps and waving them at the seals,” The official said.

The seals would typically “turn around and go further down the beach” upon seeing the tarps, according to Mr Dell’Osso.

Northern elephant seals are considered the largest “true seal” in the Northern Hemisphere by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association. They typically congregate near a point on the peninsula popular with tourists who stop and take photos of the herds from a parking area, known as Chimney Rock.

Support free-thinking journalism and attend Independent events

Officials are now reportedly considering guided tours through the beach now that the seals have seemingly taken over major portions.

Nearly 35 pups were birthed since the seals began congregating this winter, according to SF Gate.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in