Northern elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris) are one of six pinniped species found in the San Francisco Bay Area. As top ocean predators, and prey for even larger predators like orca whales and great white sharks, they are a key component of the marine ecosystem. They spend most of their lives in the deep ocean waters of the North Pacific, journeying thousands of miles each year and diving to great depths in search of food.
Changes in elephant seal populations often reflect changes in marine conditions, so monitoring them gives us important insights into the state of our oceans. Elephant seals can also be readily counted when they come ashore each year to give birth and breed (December-March), and later to molt (April-July). Point Reyes National Seashore is one of only about a dozen sites where northern elephant seals breed worldwide. Each year, the park and the San Francisco Bay Area Network Inventory and Monitoring Program monitor these seals to help understand population changes and management needs, and to develop research, interpretation, and regulatory strategies. Monitoring data has been collected at the park for the past 30 years providing valuable information on long-term trends.
Dig in to elephant seal monitoring protocols, reports, and more on the San Francisco Bay Area Network's Pinniped Monitoring page.
Seasonal Monitoring Updates
Keep up with the latest numbers as the National Park Service monitors elephant seals during their breeding and molting seasons.
Last updated: April 10, 2018