Elephant Seals

This time of year the elephant seals are ashore in Central California. Just north of San Simeon and Hearst Castle, there is a spot off HWY 1 where many people gather to see the hundreds of Elephant seals. December starts the breeding season. The breeding starts once the first males come ashore. Some of the more dominant males are 14-16 feet long and can weigh up to 2-1/2 tons. These big males take part in violent battles to establish dominance. The more dominant bulls do the majority of the breeding. Also starting in late December the females come ashore to give birth to their pups, which were conceived the year before. The females are smaller than the males. They are about 10-12 feet in length and weigh 1200-2000 pounds. The females give birth shortly after reaching the shore, and they nurse their pups for an about 30 days. The pups in this time frame can gain 200 lbs. The Elephant seals milk is 55% fat, which helps with the rapid weight gain in the seal pups. Some pups will actually feed from several different female seals and can reach 600 lbs in this short time frame.

So with all this going on I wanted to go see the pups and see if I could catch an epic battle between these beasts. I have been to this spot a couple of times before, not much going on except a bunch of seals laying on the beach. Upon arriving, the first thing I noticed was all the seal pups. The second thing I noticed was the size of some of the dominate bull males. These guys are impressive. Honestly they look like big blobs or Jaba the hut. The dominate males had a few spats while I was present, but for the most part it was pretty calm, but you can see the scars and even fresh blood from their past battles.

All in all it's a sight to see. The look out is easy to get to and quite popular. The seals don't even pay attention the humans that spend time observing their behavior. I took my 70-200 for these photographs. I have seen several photogs with the big 500 and 600mm lenses but the 70-200 should be good enough. A tripod isn't necessary and with a big crowd it's almost impossible to set up a tripod.  The picture above is a Seal pup and the one to the right is a battle worn male. If you're in the area I recommend visiting San Simeon and the Elephant seals!