Sunday, March 14, 2010

Pup Census

Brian Hatfield, USGS wildlife biologist, compiled these results from his count of the elephant seal pups born and surviving on the beach. Amazingly, total numbers are up, a new record, despite the losses due to high tides and storms.
The total is over 4,200 pups, an increase of 950, almost 30 percent, compared to 2009. It's more than the previous record year, 2007, by more than 8 percent.

Brian estimates that about 300 pups died in the storms before they could be counted.

His graphs show numbers for six years at six places along the coastline, from the beach north of the Piedras Blancas Light Station as far south as Arroyo Laguna, a popular windsurfing beach.

This State Parks Department map shows the Central Coast area. The Piedras Blancas Light Station is on the rocky outcropping at the top.
Beginning at the north, numbers were recorded for the north side of the light station; the cove on the south side, to the next outcropping, South Point; the beach between South Point and the Elephant Seal Viewing area, noted in white letters; that entire cove and beach; south from there to Arroyo Laguna; and the final numbers are for all those born south of Arroyo Laguna.

He observed 400 underweight weaners, four times as many as in other years. He attributes this to the separation of pups from their mothers in the storms. The future is not bright for underweight elephant seals.

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