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

Eduardo Velev cools off in the spray of a fire hydrant during a heatwave on July 1, 2018 in Philadelphia. Jessica Kourkounis / Getty Images

By Adrienne L. Hollis

Because extreme heat is one of the deadliest weather hazards we currently face, Union of Concerned Scientist's Killer Heat Report for the U.S. is the most important document I have read. It is a veritable wake up call for all of us. It is timely, eye-opening, transparent and factual and it deals with the stark reality of our future if we do not make changes quickly (think yesterday). It is important to ensure that we all understand it. Here are 10 terms that really help drive home the messages in the heat report and help us understand the ramifications of inaction.

Read More Show Less
Senator Graham returns after playing a round of golf with Trump on Oct. 14, 2017 in Washington, DC. Ron Sachs – Pool / Getty Images

Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Senate Republican who has been a close ally of Donald Trump, did not mince words last week on the climate crisis and what he thinks the president needs to do about it.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Golde Wallingford submitted this photo of "Pure Joy" to EcoWatch's first photo contest. Golde Wallingford

EcoWatch is pleased to announce our third photo contest!

Read More Show Less
A small Bermuda cedar tree sits atop a rock overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. todaycouldbe / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Marlene Cimons

Kyle Rosenblad was hiking a steep mountain on the island of Maui in the summer of 2015 when he noticed a ruggedly beautiful tree species scattered around the landscape. Curious, and wondering what they were, he took some photographs and showed them to a friend. They were Bermuda cedars, a species native to the island of Bermuda, first planted on Maui in the early 1900s.

Read More Show Less
krisanapong detraphiphat / Moment / Getty Images

By Grace Francese

You may know that many conventional oat cereals contain troubling amounts of the carcinogenic pesticide glyphosate. But another toxic pesticide may be contaminating your kids' breakfast. A new study by the Organic Center shows that almost 60 percent of the non-organic milk sampled contains residues of chlorpyrifos, a pesticide scientists say is unsafe at any concentration.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
The compound of German chemicals and pharmaceuticals giant Bayer in Berlin. ODD ANDERSEN / AFP / Getty Images

U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria announced his ruling in San Francisco on Monday.

Read More Show Less
A Masai giraffe and sunset at Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. Ayzenstayn / Moment / Getty Images

Another subspecies of giraffe is now officially endangered, conservation scientists announced Thursday.

Read More Show Less
Trump shakes hands with EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt after announcing his decision for the U.S. to pull out of the Paris agreement on June 1, 2017. Win McNamee / Getty Images

President Donald Trump's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) violated ethics rules when it replaced academic members of advisory boards with industry appointees, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported Monday.

Read More Show Less