Saturday, July 28, 2012

Rules of Engagement

For the most part, adult male elephant seals appear quite mellow, appearing to sleep away much of their shore-time. However, be assured that these giants are fully aware of what's going on in their vicinity and can react quite fast when needs be.

Male elephant seals have very definitive rules of engagement. They challenge vocally. They toss and twirl their heads and trunks for intimidation. They advance. They stare their opponent down. They lunge and strike. Most challenges, though, are short-lived and end when one backs away.

Click here for more land-based action photos.

If an elephant seal wants another one to move, he may 'tell' him to move, or lunge forward and butt him with his head or trunk. If neither of these attempts succeeds, he will resort to biting the other. If even this physical encouragement fails, a verbal and/or physical exchange will quickly erupt and continue until one of them concedes.

Click here for more water-based action photos.

Currently, as the end of July nears, groups of these large marine mammals, each of about 100 individuals, can be seen on a couple of the beaches at the Piedras Blancas colony on the central California coast. You can even see some of the more active individuals exchanging blows in the shallows or on land as dominance within the group is being determined, or a member from another group is being challenged.

Click here to see some exciting slo-mo video of dominance struggles in the shallows.

If you are lucky, you can even see some of these giants as they confront one another under water.

Click here to see more underwater action photos.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Big Fellas Are Back

With just about all the females off hunting for food, older males are now venturing ashore on some of the beaches of the Piedras Blancas elephant seal colony.

Some of these large marine mammals are spending their days sleeping and resting while others are challenging rivals to dominance bouts both on land as well as in the shallows. Still others can be seen with their old brown fur beginning to peel off as it gets replaced by a spanking new gray one lying underneath the dried out brownish one.

Click here for photos of the current visitors.

The number of adult male elephant seals that are currently showing up on these beaches falls way short of the number of adult females that recently filled many of the beaches. In fact, there are only a few groups of adult males on only a few beaches.

Click here for video showing some group male action.

Oftentimes, hot air can be seen escaping the big mouths of the newly arrived males as they open wide to roar out a challenge to all and sundry.

Click here for some action video of roaring big males.