Annual Closures at Point Reyes National Seashore for 2014 Harbor Seal Pupping Season

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Date: February 25, 2014
Contact: John Golda, 415-464-5143

Harbor seal pup. © Sue Van Der Wal.

Point Reyes National Seashore has one of the largest concentrations of breeding harbor seals on the mainland in California. Resting and pupping harbor seals come onshore in various parts of the park particularly in Tomales Bay, Tomales Point, Double Point, Drakes Estero, and Bolinas Lagoon. Each year, several thousand seals congregate within the Seashore especially to give birth on the sand bars and remote beaches. The National Park Service asks park visitors to avoid disturbing seals to ensure a successful pupping season.

From March 1 through June 30, an annual recreational closure of Drakes Estero is implemented to protect the harbor seals during this most sensitive time of the year. The closure applies to kayak and canoe usage but is applicable to surfers, windsurfers, abalone divers, recreational fishing, and other water sport users around harbor seal colonies in the area. The western most point of Limantour Spit is also closed to all human activity during the pupping season. (Map 104 KB PDF) Hog Island in Tomales Bay is closed during this same time period protection of harbor seal pupping areas, as well as for nesting and roosting sea birds such as double-crested cormorants and brown pelicans.

To ensure that harbor seals are not disturbed, visitors are asked to stay at least 100 yards (300 feet) away from resting seals. Visitors should never pick up a seal pup that may look abandoned. Although harbor seal pups may appear abandoned, they are most likely waiting for their mother to return. Pups are about two feet long, weigh about 24 pounds, and are weaned at 30 days after birth. If you are concerned about a particular seal, please contact park staff at one of the visitor centers.

Last year, more than 3,000 harbor seals were counted, 1,350 of which were pups. It is estimated the number of seals breeding at Point Reyes National Seashore represents around 20% of the California mainland population. The Seashore staff is conducting long-term monitoring to gain further scientific knowledge on this species and to guide management in their protection.

Access to the east side of Hog Island in Tomales Bay is prohibited. Harbor seals haul out on the sand bar at Hog Island throughout the year but are most abundant during the winter when their preferred prey, Pacific herring, spawns in Tomales Bay. During the spring months, females with their pups also haul out there. A few species of seabirds roost on Hog Island including brown pelicans and double-crested cormorants. Cormorants also have a couple of hundred nests in trees on the island in the spring and summer. They forage on various species of small schooling fish that congregate in Tomales Bay. All of Hog Island is closed to all human activity from March 1 through June 30.

Harbor seals are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and therefore, it is unlawful to disturb them while they are resting onshore. Nesting seabirds are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 (text and guide).

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Last updated: February 28, 2015

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Mailing Address:

1 Bear Valley Road
Point Reyes Station, CA 94956


(415) 464-5100
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