One of the joys of Tomales Bay and Drakes Estero is the frequent sightings of harbor seals, tule elk, and the many birds, but please respect the needs of wild animals and birds. Wildlife are sensitive to our presence and may change their behavior just by seeing us. Disturbing wildlife when they are resting or feeding may be life threatening to them.
On the water or beach, follow Marine Mammal Protection Act regulations: stay away 100 meters (300 feet) from whales, seals, and sea lions. Harbor seals are most sensitive during their pupping season, which is approximately March 1 through June 30, and as they molt in July and August. You may see single pups but do not disturb them. Usually, a parent is feeding nearby and has only left the pup for a brief period. The parent may abandon the pup if they sense humans nearby. If you are concerned about a marine mammal, contact the park dispatch office at 415-464-5170 or park visitor centers and leave a message about the location and condition of the animal.
To protect harbor seals from disturbance during the most crucial part of the pupping season, from March 1 through June 30 the National Park Service has closed the following areas to the public: Drakes Estero, Limantour Estero and South Blue Gum Beach. Pelican Point, Duck Island and the east side of Hog Island are closed to the public year round.
Map of Estero closures (258 KB PDF)
Map of Tomales Bay closures (209 KB PDF)
Map of Hog Island closure (42 KB PDF)
During summer and fall, brown pelicans--which, up until 2009, was a federally listed endangered species--roost on islands and floats in the bay. Many other seabirds make their home on the bay as well. Keep at least 30 meters (100 feet) away.
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Tule elk generally do not come down onto the Tomales Bay beaches, but they may be seen from the water. Always keep your distance. If you encounter an elk, do not come between a cow and a calf, a bull and a group of cows, or between two bulls challenging each other. The rut season--when males are jockeying for position and attempting to gather females for breeding--occurs from late August through September. The elk are most active during that period.
Park biologists have noted elk calving and nursing in areas near Avalis Beach and White Gulch. To reduce the chance of disturbing the elk, stay on beaches and do not climb up onto the ridge, and if you plan to land at Avalis Beach, camp or use the beach at the north end or south end of the beach.
Map of Sensitive Elk Habitat at Avalis Beach (41 KB JPG)
Map of Sensitive Elk Habitat at White Gulch (52 KB JPG)
On May 1, 2010, a number of Marine Protected Areas went into effect within and adjacent to Point Reyes National Seashore, in part to better protect nesting birds. Per the Marine Life Protection Act (MPLA), the Point Reyes Headlands is closed to all vessels within 305 meters (1000 feet) of shore from Chimney Rock west to Longitude 123° 01.00'. Per the Superintendent's Compendium, from Longitude 123° 01.00' west to the Point Reyes Lighthouse the headlands is closed to all vessels within 91 meters (100 yards) of shore. There are also 91-meter (300-foot) special closures around Point Resistance and Double Point/Stormy Stack, per the MLPA.
Pets are not allowed on beaches within the Tule Elk Reserve or on state park beaches on the west side of Tomales Bay. Pets on leash are permitted within the National Seashore on Tomales Bay beaches south of the elk fence and north of the Tomales Bay State Park boundary.
Map showing locations where pets are permitted along Tomales Bay (263 KB PDF)
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