Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Masses of Rag-Tag Elephant Seals Occupy Central Coast Beaches

With most of this year's weaners having left in search of much yearned-for food, hundreds, maybe even thousands of brown-furred molting elephant seals of varying ages are swarming to their favorite beaches on the central coast of California. In fact, there seem to be many more elephant seals currently occupying these beaches than during the recently completed birthing/mating season.

Click here for photos of some of the current inhabitants.

The now relatively calm adult females, pregnant again, are trying to get some rest among the masses of brown bodies as they wait for the old fur to peel off and the new gray one to take its place as they undergo their catastrophic molt. The sexually immature females, on the other hand, can be seen hurriedly trying to stay out of the way of the young male elephant seals on the move.

Many of these young males from a couple of years old up to the youngest sub-adults, whose noses are starting to lengthen, are acting out their dominance fighting rituals both on land and in water.

Click here to see video of rock 'n' roll play-fighting.

Many of the 2- and 3-year-old youngsters are exhibiting what is known as scabby molt. This is not a true molt, but is believed to be a skin disease that afflicts some youngsters. On these elephant seals, it is not uncommon to see pink skin or even bleeding skin as the fur comes off.

Click here to watch video of graceful juveniles as they enjoy some carefree water time.

The only groups absent at this time are the older sub-adult males and the adult males. Some of the younger sub-adult males have started to come ashore, but the older ones will come in during May and June. Then in July and August, it’ll be turn for the adult males.

It is believed that each of the elephant seals coming here during this time will spend about one month ashore before heading back out to feed again.

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