Elephant Seal Lookout, San Simeon
San Luis Obispo, California, USA
At Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Lookout, you can stand above the beaches and look down on massive elephant seals, and in winter, their pups. You can see the seals from fairly close. There are docents dressed in blue to answer your questions. The seals throw sand up over themselves with their flippers. The male seals have scars from fights, and these scars show off that they are ready to become an alpha male. April to August is molting season and the seals laze around on the beaches shedding fur balls.
It's a little disconcerting how many people there are- bus loads of them- but it's still a wonderul sight!
Here's a calendar of what to expect throughout the year at Peidras Blancas:
Late November: Huge adult males arrive from Alaska and start to fight for dominance. They weigh as much as two tons! A male may bellow extremely loudly to make another male back off. Sometimes they will bang chests together or bite each other's chest, which is so callus and thick it is called a chest shield. Mostly, the males save their energy for the big fights in February. They also don't eat until February.
Late December: The pregnant females begin arriving and give birth several days later. There are about 40 females in each male's "harem." The females have eaten a lot, but now they will fast while nursing their babies. The pups weigh about 60 pounds when born, and the birth takes half an hour. The mother and pup vocalize together as soon as the pup is born so that they bond, and can find each other on the beach if they become separated amid the crowds of seals or during a winter storm.
January: The pups nurse, gaining about 10 pounds a day!
February: The female seals wean their pups and mate with the male- peak mating time is around Valentine's Day! The male mates with each of the 40 or so females in the harem. He must chase away the other males who may be lurking around off the beach. The female abruptly leaves her pup and heads out to sea.
March: The plump pups must survive for eight weeks on the milk they've eaten because they can't swim well enough to get their own food yet. The pups spend March teaching themselves how to swim.
April and May: The females and juveniles return to molt. The seals are now susceptible to cold because their fur is gone.
June to August: The subadult and then the adult males return to molt.
September to November: The young seals and then the subadult males go to rest (haul out) in a safe place since they are now susceptible to cold. The bulls actually stop fighting with each other at this time.
While in the area, check out gorgeous William Hearst Beach. If you're lucky, you may see an elephant seal up close while it lazes on the sand. If you head down the coast, you will come to Cayucos, a funky little beach town, a great place to eat.
An alpha male approaches his harem of hundreds of females and their pups.
This is an interactive map, you can zoom and move it.
About 6 miles north of San Simeon, along Hwy 1. You park in the two designated parking lots along the highway. The more southern parking lot has two distinct viewing areas.
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