Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Weaners are nearly all gone from the beach, replaced by juveniles of both sexes and adult females. They return in the spring to molt and take four to six weeks of rest. Thousands have already returned to Piedras Blancas. More seals are actually on the beach in May than during the mating season. The yellow flowers are mustard, one of many invasive plants on the Central Coast, but they do add nice color.

This female shows scars from a past shark attack. The peeling skin of her companions is the normal molt elephant seals experience annually.

Follicles of the old skin dissolve, uncovering the new skin underneath. Although it looks like something that would be itchy, the seals don’t take much notice of it.

Last week, one of the weaners was observed wearing a dog collar. Whatever the motive for dressing an elephant seal as a pet may have been, the results are tragic. A constricting collar will become progressively tighter as the animal grows, slowly killing it.

The single most important function of the elephant seal viewpoint is public education. I hope that over time, such careless harm will eventually become unthinkable.

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