Upon arriving at the hostel, I decided to stay a day longer and explore the island in more details. So, on my second day I went to see elephant seals.
Here are a few facts I learnt about elephant seals there by chance, listening to a guide giving a tour nearby:
- Elephant seals are the biggest compared to harbor seals and sea lions.
- Elephant seals make two round trip journeys a year, for breeding (January) and for a molt (April). Their skin peels off.
- In nursing females lose 40% of their weight. Babies weigh 70 pounds, three months after - 300 pounds. Birds like sea gulls hunt for placenta.
- They get pregnant and go towards Hawaii, males go to Alaska. They go to different places. Males come back in December for mating.
- The last of the pups who have not left can be seen here, even though it is molting season. They don't do full migration until after a while. Until 6-7 months males stay there. Then they don't go far, but they don't stick on the beach either. Their nose is smaller than that of adult elephant seals. Nose is their resonating chamber, they chatter to scare their opponent.
- Steep cliffs are their protection from grizzly bears. El nino and big storms are their main danger now. Besides, their fathers being around can cause danger.
- They have 25 gallons of oil, they were killed for oil like whales. 27 Individuals left in 1922, they were saved and their population grows exponentially. From 1 pop to 100 pups in one year. 6000 elephant seals now.
I walked along an abandoned trail followed by no other toursits. Wildlife jumped at me straight away ...
When I got closer to the pier, I saw a whole colony of harbor seals lazing out their time on a sandy beach! Harbor seals can be of two colors: marble white and black.
It was amazing to be so close to these animals...though they really stink, to tell the truth. I was sitting there watching their behavior. They make awful sounds similar to snoring. They take sand showers, scratch themselves and turn from one side to another, that's basically all.
You are not supposed to come so close to wild animals, there is a rule. But I didn't know about it then. Anyways, I didn't disturb them and they seemed not to be bothered at all by my presence.
I walked a bit further past them, to a remote corner on the small beach not occupied by the animals. I took off my clothes and took a realy quick swim in the ocean. The water was painfully cold...One of the guys on the beach was more active and looked darker than the rest. It must have been a California sea lion, he looked more like a predator. He quickly made his way to the water...
...and back to the beach. Just like me :)
Stellar and California sea lions can be seen in the area. They are bigger than harbor seals, but smaller than elephant seals. Sea lions are used to brooding, stay longer with their pups, are more friendly to people and other animals. They can get up on their flippers. Seals can't do that.