Locomotoring

Seven continents, seven seas, seven billion people and seven thousand good eats …

Elephant seals of Ano Nuevo

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Papa and baby elephant seal

Papa and baby elephant seal

December to March – they arrive, they mate, they have babies.

Elephant seals are big, brown, and blubbery. If you come to Ano Nuevo Beach – a small state park on the California coastline  between Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz – you will see hundreds of them. Blue sea, choppy waves, rocky waterfront, sandy coastline and what looks like large brown blubbery sacks littered all around. Males weigh 5000 lbs, females 4000 and newborns about 100. Maybe they are called elephant seals because they are elephantine versions of seals, or maybe it is because of the trunk the males have for a nose. Harems of alpha males number in hundreds. Sounds more exciting than seventy two virgins, eh?

After all the mating and birthing action, the pups spend their time feeding on their mother’s milk. At 50% fat – it is like half and half… If only they had access to Starbucks. The babies grow at the rate of 10-15 lbs per day. During this time, they don’t move much. Just gulp and grow. I think if one stared at them for an hour or two, one would be able to visibly watch them grow. What a delight they must be for the parents!

Coastline of Ano Nuevo

Coastline of Ano Nuevo

I am hard pressed to claim that watching elephant seals is a fun activity for kids. During this feeding and growing time, a germinating seed is active in comparison.  In an hour,  I saw  a sum total of three flippers waving, two noses quivering, one wave like motion through ten feet of blubber, and one very special act of peeing. You see, the adults don’t eat or drink when beached, so in order to conserve water, they don’t usually pee. Maybe the adult we saw had a touch of incontinence. I am told that if I want to see them move, I would have to catch them in December – take a video perhaps for some elephant seal porno.

The females are usually gone by the end of Feb, leaving the babies and the fathers snoozing behind. Surprised? Anyone?  Anyone? During this three month process of procreation, the moms and dads lose about 1000 lbs, roughly 20-25% of their weight. So, all you folks who are 20% overweight, maybe it isn’t too terrible after all. If you can arrange to be on zero calorie diet for three months in the year, you can spend eating sushi for the rest of nine months. The elephant seal diet.

Our docent was a skinny, bearded, passionate ranger named “Mountain”. I could I have titled the article “Ano Nuevo, where Mountain meets the Elephant Seals” but that would have been too corny, even for my current mood.

PS: You will need a reservation to get a docent led walk – only way to get in during the breeding season. The weekends get booked fast.

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Written by Som

March 2, 2009 at 8:47 pm

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