Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Welcome to Piedras Blancas!

Piedras Blancas is a point along the California coastline. The name is Spanish for White Rocks, which you can see in the distance in this photo.

What makes it unique is that, in 1990, Northern Elephant Seals started arriving there as part of their annual migration. In 1992, a pup was born there for the first time. Since then, the rookery has grown. Biologists estimate that about 16,000 seals now use the rookery during the course of a year.

As the number of elephant seals arriving on the beach increased, the public and government agencies had to act. Seals were getting onto Highway 1, occasionally being hit by vehicles traveling the road. Who expects to see a two-ton seal on the road? Something had to be done.

San Luis Obispo County got involved, California State Parks got involved, and a local nonprofit organization was formed, Friends of the Elephant Seal. Volunteers stepped forward to organize training for docents who would spend time greeting visitors and telling them about these unusual marine mammals.

My husband and I were living in Madison, Wisconsin, although we both had lived in California previously. As soon as circumstances beckoned us to return to the Central Coast in 2007, I contacted the Friends of the Elephant Seals and signed up to become a docent. Since then, I've spent at least one morning a week on the bluff overlooking the beach where the seals live.

I've enjoyed being out there, talking to visitors who are amazed and delighted to find these animals willing to tolerate humans watching over them. Because I am a writer, I've kept a journal. This blog is the next step in sharing what I've learned and experienced there. Thank you for joining me on this journey.

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