Elephant Seals of San Simeon

Elephant Seals of San Simeon

Winter months are an exciting time at one of the Central Coast’s most outstanding State Parks, Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery.

Located just 5 miles north of Hearst Castle State Historical Monument in San Simeon. The viewing areas are open 365 days a year, are wheelchair accessible and free to all visitors. The elephant seal viewing areas are part of the Conservation Lands Foundation’s “Outstanding Natural Area,” as well as a “California Coastal National Monument” of the California State Parks. The ocean and marine environment are protected by the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and are part of California’s Marine Protected Area Network.

The northern elephant seal is the largest seal in the northern hemisphere and the second largest seal in the world (after the southern elephant seal). Adult males are 14 to 16 feet in length and 4,000 to 5,000 pounds! If you go visit in late November the males are beginning to arrive to lay claim to a section of the beach. This time of year you will see dramatic battles for dominance of groups of the seals often referred to as “harems.” Most battles for dominance end in face-offs using intimidation but you can occasionally be witness to some violent (and bloody) fights.

The female seals arrive throughout the winter, a few days before giving birth. Pupping happens in full view, right on the beach below the viewing area. Although births often happen at night, I have been fortunate enough to witness 3 live births in one day, during last January. The mother seals nurse their pups for about four weeks and, during this time, the pups often quadruple in size from their birth weight (growing from about 70lbs to around 300lbs).

The mother seal’s milk is very rich, reaching around 60% fat by weaning time. During the last week of nursing, the mother becomes pregnant again and shortly thereafter goes to sea, leaving her pup behind. The pup remains in the rookery, fasting, for an additional 8 to 10 weeks. As the beach becomes less populated in the early spring, due to the departure of females, the pups begin going into the shallow water just off shore. Clumsy with their rapidly acquired weight, it takes some time before they are able to swim well. Most of their time in the water is spent at night, preparing for dives at sea where it will be dark, day and night. If you would like to experience this part of the elephant seals juvenile stage you should take a trip now as they begin to depart by late March or early April.

For 20 years, Friends of the Elephant Seals has operated a group of dedicated volunteers. Docents go through extensive training and are highly knowledgeable in the natural and cultural history of the rookery. When out on the bluff, look for the cobalt blue jackets worn by the docent volunteers. Don’t be scared to approach a docent and ask questions, they love an opportunity to educate visitors. I feel fortunate to be able to live close to the Rookery where these majestic mammals have made the Central Coast their home.

Click on the following link for more information regarding Friends of the Elephant Seal: http://www.elephantseal.org/index.htm

Ashlea Boyer

Ashlea Boyer: Is a native of Pismo Beach, having moved here from South Lake Tahoe when she was just four years old. An Alumni of Arroyo Grande High School, she then attended the University of California at Santa Barbara, graduating with a degree in English Literature. After college, she spent 5 successful years working her way up to Management Editor of a national fitness magazine in Southern California, working for two of the three largest West Coast publishing houses. Ashlea return to the Central Coast for her wedding and stayed raise her family. She joined the family business in 2004 and began leading the Pismo Beach Homes Team with her Mother, Kathi Foster in real estate. Ashlea has been a leading real estate agent in the Pismo Beach area for 10 years, and has developed a strong client following in the area based on her dedication to our community and outstanding customer service. Our team, The Pismo Beach Homes Team, has been awarded the Quadruple Gold level awards consistently over the past 5 years with Keller Williams Realty. She has been named more than once as the "Agent of the Quarter". In 2011, Ashlea was presented with the "Top 20 Under 40" award by the San Luis Obispo County Community Foundation for my professional excellence and profound commitment to the community. Ashlea lives in Arroyo Grande, California with her husband and son and she enjoy running on the beach, volunteering, pilates, snowboarding and the occasional scuba diving. She's active in many industry, community service and non-profit organizations and serves on the board of the Rotary Club of Pismo Beach, the Clark Center for the Performing Arts, and other community non-profit organizations. 

  1 comment for “Elephant Seals of San Simeon

  1. December 14, 2019 at 2:53 am

    Aw, this was a really good post. Finding the time and actual effort to create a great article… but what can I say… I hesitate a whole lot and don’t seem to get nearly anything done.

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