Quantcast

Seals Reclaim California Beach During Shutdown

Animals
A herd of elephant seals are seen along the Drakes Beach, which was closed during partial federal government shutdown, in Drakes Beach, California, U.S., in this recent photo released on Jan. 30. Point Reyes National Seashore / NPS

The government shutdown came to at least a temporary end Jan. 25, but one California beach is still dealing with its unexpected consequences. The popular Drakes Beach, part of the Point Reyes National Seashore, is now closed to human visitors after being overrun by elephant seals.


"In January 2019, elephant seals occupied the section of Drakes Beach adjacent to the Kenneth C. Patrick Visitor Center, and, at times, the parking lot and wooden ramps leading up to the visitor center. As a result, the entire Drakes Beach area south of the junction of Sir Francis Drake Boulevard and Drakes Beach Road was closed to the public to better protect the elephant seals from disturbance," the seashore announced.

While most of the shutdown's impacts on national parks have been disastrous for wildlife and visitors, the reclamation of the beach by nearly 100 female seals and pups, as well as a few males, has actually given returning park staff hope.

"If you just get out of the way, wildlife will find their way in," chief seashore wildlife ecologist Dave Press told The Guardian.

Head of interpretation and resource education at Point Reyes John Dell'Osso said that, during the shutdown, the seashore's usual staff of around 85 was reduced to around 12. That meant that there were not enough employees to carry out the usual strategies to discourage seals from occupying the popular Drakes Beach, like shaking blue tarps.

Weather was also a factor, Dell'Osso told USA Today, as heavy rain flooded a parking lot and high, king tides inundated the beaches. This combination of factors, along with the lack of staff, encouraged the seals to claim the beach. Dell'Osso said that more than 40 females, around 35 pups and 10 males were now living there.

To protect the sensitive pups, seashore employees are keeping humans off the beach itself, but that doesn't mean the situation is a total loss for visitors.

"However, this weekend we are experimenting by opening the road and parking lot back up, closing a small portion of the lot closest to the beach (maybe 20 cars or so), and stationing Park Rangers and docents to guide people to the edge of the parking lot for incredible viewing opportunities, but no access on the beach," Dell'Osso told USA Today. "Based on how this works for both visitor safety and protection of the seals, we may continue this the following weekend."

If the strategy works, Dell'Osso told The Guardian, these weekend viewing sessions could continue through early April, when the pups will have been weaned and the seals will move on.

Elephant seals are a conservation success story. They were almost hunted to extinction in California, The Guardian reported, but have since staged a comeback. The first pup within decades was born along the Point Reyes seashore in the 1980s.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Juvenile hatchery salmon flushed from a tanker truck in San Francisco Bay, California. Ben Moon

That salmon sitting in your neighborhood grocery store's fish counter won't look the same to you after watching Artifishal, a new film from Patagonia.

Read More Show Less
Natdanai Pankong / EyeEm / Getty Images

By Lauren Panoff, MPH, RD

Coconut meat is the white flesh inside a coconut.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Arx0nt / Moment / Getty Images

By Taylor Jones, RD

Oats are a highly nutritious grain with many health benefits.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

Get ready to toast bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. National Pollinator Week is June 17-23 and it's a perfect time to celebrate the birds, bugs and lizards that are so essential to the crops we grow, the flowers we smell, and the plants that produce the air we breathe.

Read More Show Less
Alexander Spatari / Moment / Getty Images

It seems like every day a new diet is declared the healthiest — paleo, ketogenic, Atkins, to name a few — while government agencies regularly release their own recommended dietary guidelines. But there may not be an ideal one-size-fits-all diet, according to a new study.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Logging shown as part of a thinning and restoration effort in the Deschutes National Forest in Oregon on Oct. 22, 2014. Oregon Department of Forestry / CC BY 2.0

The U.S Forest Service unveiled a new plan to skirt a major environmental law that requires extensive review for new logging, road building, and mining projects on its nearly 200 million acres of public land. The proposal set off alarm bells for environmental groups, according to Reuters.

Read More Show Less
Maskot / Getty Images

By Kris Gunnars, BSc

It's easy to wonder which foods are healthiest.

Read More Show Less
Homes in Washington, DC's Brookland neighborhood were condemned to clear room for a highway in the 1960s. The community fought back. Brig Cabe / DC Public Library

By Teju Adisa-Farrar & Raul Garcia

In the summer of 1969 a banner hung over a set of condemned homes in what was then the predominantly black and brown Brookland neighborhood in Washington, DC. It read, "White man's roads through black men's homes."

Earlier in the year, the District attempted to condemn the houses to make space for a proposed freeway. The plans proposed a 10-lane freeway, a behemoth of a project that would divide the nation's capital end-to-end and sever iconic Black neighborhoods like Shaw and the U Street Corridor from the rest of the city.

Read More Show Less