• The Point Reyes Beach as viewed from the Point Reyes Headlands

    Point Reyes

    National Seashore California

There are park alerts in effect.
show Alerts »
  • 2014 Harbor Seal Pupping Season Closures

    From March 1 through June 30, the park implements closures of certain Tomales Bay beaches and Drakes Estero to water-based recreation to protect harbor seals during the pupping season. Please avoid disturbing seals to ensure a successful pupping season. More »

  • 2014 Winter Shuttle Bus Operations Have Ended

    March 30, 2014, was the last day for the 2014 Winter Shuttle Bus System. Sir Francis Drake Blvd. is open daily from now through late December 2014. More »

  • Operational Changes Took Effect on May 1, 2013

    The Lighthouse Visitor Center is now only open Fridays through Mondays; closed Tuesdays through Thursdays, including Thanksgiving. The Kenneth C. Patrick Visitor Center is open on weekends and holidays when shuttles are operating. More »

Elephant Seals Thrive at Point Reyes National Seashore

Subscribe RSS Icon | What is RSS
Date: February 17, 2004
Contact: John A. Dell’Osso, 415-464-5135

Point Reyes National Seashore has topped the 1,000 mark for the number of elephant seals counted during weekly censuses during the breeding and pupping season. This year during of the peak of the season in late January and February, the park counted 1048 elephant seals along its shore. Already this winter season, over 400 elephant seal pups have been born—another record for the park.

After being absent for more than 150 years, elephant seals returned to the Point Reyes Headlands in the 1970s. In 1981, the first breeding pair and pup were discovered near Chimney Rock. Since then, researchers have found that the colony is growing at a dramatic annual average rate of 16 percent.

In the early 1900s, elephant seals were on the brink of extinction with only an estimated population of a few hundred to a few thousand on Guadalupe Island, Mexico. After protection from hunting, the population has bounced back to over 150,000 animals.

Elephant seal males can be up to 18 feet in length and weigh between 3,000 and 5,000 pounds. Females are up to 10 feet and 1,200 pounds. They spend approximately 80% of their time in the open ocean and can dive as deep as 5,000 feet and be under water up to nearly two hours.

The total population, including all age classes, for Point Reyes is estimated at 2,000 to 2,500 animals. The best viewing area for elephant seals is the overlook near the Chimney Rock parking lot. The elephant seals can be viewed from now until mid-March at which time the pups are weaned from their mothers and head out to sea in April.

The annual shuttle bus program is currently in operation. Operating only on weekends and holidays until early April, the popular shuttle bus program runs from Drakes Beach to the Lighthouse and then on to Chimney Rock before returning to Drakes Beach. Park visitors need to purchase tickets at Drakes Beach on the day you intend to ride the buses from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm. No advance reservations are required. The price is $4.oo for adults and children 16 and under are free.

-NPS-

Did You Know?

Purple ochre sea star

In addition to raising sea levels and temperatures, the increased concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is changing ocean chemistry by reducing the pH of the ocean. This decreased pH reduces the availability of minerals which marine organisms use to build shells and reef structures. More...