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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Visiting the Elephant Seals at Piedras Blancas in San Simeon

Today we decided to head up the Pacific Coast Highway from Pismo Beach to San Simeon, California to see the Elephant Seals at Point Piedras Blancas near the Piedras Blancas Lighthouse. The drive itself is a pretty one taking you through San Luis Obispo, Morro Bay, Cayucas, Cambria, and finally past Hearst Castle in San Simeon to Point Piedras Blancas.

Our drive out there was relatively uneventful. First we made a quick stop into Morro Bay to pickup some Seashells at ths shop there. We then realized Ashley had never actually been to Morro Bay, so we decided to come back tomorrow in order for her to have a look around. Our next stop was for $4 gas at the Shell Gas Station at the Old Cambria Marketplace. Needless to say, I just grabbed enough gas to make it through our trip rather than filling the tank.

Northern Elephant Seals at Piedras Blancas in San Simeon

Point Piedras Blancas is a great place to stop and see the Northern Elephant Seals. This is the second time Ashley and I have come to see them and it is a great experience each time. This time, we were fortunate enough that the "Friends of the Elephant Seal" were there so we could go to the lower landing. Some nice other folks were there that took our picture for us.

A little history on the Northern Elephant Seals at Piedras Blancas:

Hunted nearly to extinction for their oil-rich blobber, elephant seals have made a remarkable comeback. Protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act, they are expanding their range outward from remote islands and are now colonizing selected mainland beaches such as Piedras Blancas.

Elephant seals come ashore and form colonies for only a few months of each year to give birth, breed and molt. The rest of th year the colonies disperse and individuals spend most of their time in pursuit of food, a quest which involves swimming thousands of miles and diving to great depths.

Elephant seals started arriving in increasing numbers at the Piedras Blancas area in 1990. The first pup was born in 1992 and births have steadily increased to over 1,700 pups in 1998. This explosive growth is remarkable in that elephant seals have traditionally preferred remote islands with very few terrestrial predators or people.
During our visit, although still early in the season there were a good number of juveniles that we were able to see. Visiting the Elephant Seals in San Simeon is almost always a good time!

Video of a couple of juveniles playing in the water:

Video of a juvenile telling another to get out of his way: