The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Seals Reclaim California Beach During Shutdown
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
By Dipika Kadaba
We've known for more than 50 years that smoking cigarettes comes with health hazards, but it turns out those discarded butts are harmful for the environment, too. Filtered cigarette butts, although small, contain dozens of chemicals, including arsenic and benzene. These toxins can leach into the ground or water, creating a potentially deadly situation for nearby birds, fish and other wildlife.
By Wenonah Hauter
Five years ago this week, an emergency manager appointed by then-Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder made the devastating decision to save money by switching Flint's water supply over from Detroit's water system to the Flint River. Seen as a temporary fix, the new water supply was not properly treated. High levels of lead leached from the old pipes, poisoning a generation of Flint's children, and bacteria responsible for an outbreak of Legionnaires' Disease killed more than a dozen residents.
Did you know that more than a third of food is wasted or thrown away every year? And that only 25 percent of it would be enough to feed the 795 million undernourished people in the world? That's why today is Stop Food Waste Day, a chance to reflect on what you can do to waste less of the food you buy.
When Paris's Notre Dame caught fire on April 15, the flames threatened more than eight centuries of culture and history. The fire evoked shock, horror and grief worldwide. While the cathedral burned, French President Emmanuel Macron expressed determination to rebuild what the French regard as a sacred site.