Return of Elephant Seals to Point Reyes National Seashore Prompts Temporary Beach Closure for Winter 2007
Contact: John Dell'Osso, 415-464-5135
Superintendent Don Neubacher announced today that elephant seals have returned to pup and breed on the beaches of Point Reyes National Seashore. Due to the presence of the seals, a temporary restriction to people and dogs is in place until the end of April from the South Beach parking lot, south. A temporary restriction at the far southern end of Drakes Beach and south of the Lifeboat Station are also in place.
This is only a temporary closure for the protection of elephant seals during the breeding and pupping season. 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 April at which time the pups are weaned from their mothers and head out to sea. The viewing area for elephant seals is along the Elephant Seal Overlook Trail recently rehabilitated with financial assistance from the California Coastal Conservancy and Point Reyes National Seashore Association.
The first northern elephant seal (Mirounga angustirostris) pup of the breeding season observed by biologists on December 19, 2006 in the Point Reyes Headlands. Since then a total 21 pups have been observed and the number of pups continues to grow as more and more females return to the headland’s breeding sites. As of January 2, 2007, a total of 316 northern elephant seals were observed by National Park Service researchers in the Point Reyes Headlands. For the next month or so, the numbers of elephant seals returning to the beaches will continue to increase until the peak of births occurs in late January. During the 2006 breeding season the highest number of elephant seals in the headlands occurred on January 27th with 1,283 animals counted.
About a quarter of all of the elephant seals in the Point Reyes Headlands are easily visible on north Drakes Beach from the Elephant Seal Overlook. Of the 78 elephant seals visible on north Drakes Beach, a harem of 19 females is located near the center of the colony. Eight of the 19 females have given birth to sleek, black pups. Elephant Seal Overlook continues to be a great place to view numerous bulls and larger males. Close to 50% of the elephant seals visible on Drakes Beach are males. Also visible from the overlook, are a handful of last breeding season’s pups which are recognized by their golden coats and are referred to as yearlings.
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 $5.oo for adults and children under 16 are free.
Dogs will still be allowed on leash at North Beach, Kehoe Beach north, and the southern portion of Limantour Beach.