Thursday, March 17, 2011

Weaners Galore

Since the threat of a far-reaching tsunami caused by the devastating 9.0 earthquake in Japan has finally dissipated, one would think that the elephant seals camped out on the shores of the central coast would continue their regular business.

Most of the current elephant seal population is composed of this year's pups, who recently matured into weaners. The majority of these have gathered together in oversized weaner pods on just a couple of the local beaches in the Piedras Blancas area instead of being dottted along the coast as in previous years.

An observer might be amazed as the members of the weaner pod at the north end of the Piedras Blancas viewing center seem to be unusually active, feisty and agitated - biting and snapping at anything and everything that's in their vicinity rather than mainly sleeping away their days, conserving energy. Extreme backbends also seem to be the order of the day as many of these maybe not-so-small twirling dervishes are making the most of a pool formed through a combination of high tides and water deposited from a large agricultural drainage pipe.

Click here to see video of weaners in pool.

Another interesting point is the amount of large adult male elephant seals that are still present. One could say that they're there to protect the weaners. But are they ? Scientists believe that the adult males are only interested in mature females. However, my observations of the adult males would seem to point to their protective nature not only towards females but also towards the pups and/or the weaners.

So far, only a handful of the females have returned to the beaches to rest and start their catastrophic molt. Additionally, on some of the small pocket beaches, a few well-fed young males have already hauled out to begin their molting period.

Click here to see more photos.

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