Viewing Elephant Seals
After being absent for more than 150 years, elephant seals returned to the sandy Point Reyes Headlands in the early 1970s. In 1981, the first breeding pair was discovered near Chimney Rock. Since then, researchers have found that the colony is growing at a dramatic annual average rate of 16 percent. Fanning out from their initial secluded spot, the seals have expanded to popular beaches.
From December through March a breeding colony of elephant seals can be observed from Elephant Seal Overlook near Chimney Rock, above beautiful Drakes Bay. The males are the first to arrive here, in December, to stake out a claim on the beach. Then pregnant females begin to arrive and soon give birth to a single pup. Subadult and juvenile animals arrive and the colony can number close to one hundred animals.
From the Overlook you can witness the fascinating behavior of these animals, including male dominance contests, birthing of pups and the interactions of mothers and pups. You will hear the distinctive vocalizations of females, pups and the powerful trumpeting of the adult males (bulls) which can be heard for over a mile.
Check out our Weekly Elephant Seal updates to learn the latest news.
During weekends and holidays, highly trained docents staff the Overlook. They have binoculars, spotting scopes, and a wealth of information to share with you.
For more information, check out our Elephant Seals page, sfnps.org's Elephant Seals web pages, or our Elephant Seals Resource Newsletter (1,284 KB PDF - Adobe® Acrobat Reader® is needed to view PDF documents).
Seal viewing tips:
Did You Know?
Northern elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris) began breeding at Point Reyes in 1981 after being absent for over 150 years. The population breeds at terrestrial haul out sites at Point Reyes Headland, one of only eleven mainland breeding areas for northern elephant seals in the world. More...