Caly’s Ellie’s~

Juvenile northern elephant seal Big Sur California. This little guy seemed happy to see me and vocalized and spun around, watched me and entertained the heck out me. Of course I fell head over heels for these guys.
Male northern elephant seal in full battle call. Their trumpeting battle calls can be heard from far away.
Heavy hunting reduced northern elephant seal populations to a worldwide low of less than fifty. Protection implemented by the US and Mexico have restored current populations to approximately 175,000. Although most northern elephant seals mate and give birth on offshore islands, 20,000 return annually to the Big Sur area on California’s coast.
In December mating season male’s battle violently for control of beaches and females, and gather harems.
Their battles definitely grab your attention and take place both on land and in the water.
Males weigh up to 5000 pounds and are up to 15 feet long.
The juveniles are adorable and curious little guys.
Mating agression is not the norm. Elephant seals are usually mellow creatures.
Please stay tuned for more photos of these remarkable colonies of fascinating animals that were nearly poached to extinction.
Cheers to you from the Caly’s magnificent ellies~

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186 thoughts on “Caly’s Ellie’s~

    • Oh I missed your comment. So sorry. No not Ano Nuevo, which is more monitored. These photos were taken in southern Big Sur, only a few in Piedras Blancas. There are streches of beaches that are not monitored, not as frequently visited by people, where humans and ellies can interact more naturally. If humans don’t screw this interaction up, it could actually remain this way. Imagine that!

      • Yes you can! There should stll be births occurring and after the births, there is mating before the females head back out to sea. Check out this organization re: Piedras Blanca. There is a 24/7 web cam so you can monitor what is occurring on the beach prior to your visit:

        Be sure and visit other beaches in addition to Piedras Blancas where you can have a solitary and more interactive experience. I hope you post on this, I would love to see the goings on in Feb!

    • I am terrible at estimating measurement. We found them on several beaches and got considerably closer at the beaches where there were no other people. The seals were also much more interested in us at the beaches that had no humans. We were always at least 10 feet above the seals and probably another 10 feet or so away horizontially. We stayed further away from the bulls. The females gave a warning, wide open mouth, various vocalizations and then I would stop and take pics from there. Then they went back to sleep or watched me with open curiousity and I could move a bit closer and they didn’t mind. I imagine they could be quite lethal if a person was very stupid and approached them quickly or too closely. But clearly they are curious about us and enjoy us, at a reasonable distance.

  1. Wow, amazing shots, Cindy! What an exciting treat to view this annual spectacle in person. I didn’t realize that they were previously so perilously endangered. Glad steps were taken to right that wrong.

    • The estimated numbers of remaining northerns varied at the low point from less than fifty to twenty. The Smithsonian went on an expedition to find them when they were almost extinct, found eight on an island and killed seven of them for specimens. Makes one wonder about human beings who are in decision making positions……
      The southern elephant seal is currently not doing so well.

      • Yes, I am not at all surprised that you do and I think it does help. Really elephant seals are a conservation success story in that the nothern’s have been successfully brought back from the brink of extinction, due both to decreasing use of their oil for lighting and the passage of The Marine Mammal Act. I have seen in my lifetime the increase in marine mammal populations in Caly waters due to the passage of this act. Otters and all seal species are far more prevalent. That said, due to the near extinction of the northern’s, their gene pool is too limited, there is a lack of genetic diversity that makes them vulnerable to disease.

  2. To be on a beach alone with these fascinating creatures would be the ultimate wild life experience, to be able to watch them and take these lovely photos would be unforgettable. Thank you for sharing them with us, and I look forward to more….

      • I do have a love for living which I have learned to nuture as I know you do too. It is so important to accept the hard and still find the good before you die or you will only realize what you didn’t appreciate when it is too late. I had a near death experience with my children and this was made very clear to me. I realized I was going to die and hadn’t really lived.

  3. Incredible images.

    The aggression at mating, like most animals, is highly structured and ritualized. That’s not to say no one ever gets hurt — they do — but there are social limits to the violence.

    • Yes, my next post will document the hurt part. I didn’t want to emphasize the aggression or injury since there is so much more to their behavior, and this is only one small aspect. I wanted to balance it out. I also didn’t want to address the coerzion during mating issue so I have no idea why I am mentioning it to you now. I am going to try and go see who you are…..

    • I think wild animals often are curious by a human with a camera plastered to their face. Maybe they see it as a large eye and think photographers are a different sort of human. Maybe they are right in that most wildlfe photographers only like to shoot animals with a camera!

  4. They really have very adorable little faces, and those big eyes are too irresistible. I can see how they would put you under their spell. For years there’s been very vocalized controversy over sea hunting in Northern Canada. I really can’t fathom how you could kill anything for it’s fur, let alone something so harmless and gentle. Monsterous and unnecessary, as is many things man has done to helpless animals. Thanks for taking us to the beach Cindy!

    • Yes. It is hard to emphasize the brutality of some humans, while at the same time acknowledging the kindness of others. It is a puzzling dicotomy. I am grateful for the many decades I spent as a therapist, where the kindness of people just bowled me over, while at the same time the cruelty of the often more powerful minority, and the evil they engender, cannot be denied. See. It’s hard to describe.

  5. What a tragedy it would have been if the elephant seals had been driven to extinction. I’m so glad that their numbers have recovered. The babies are just adorable. πŸ™‚

    • The stupid cruelty of some humans, compared to the kind words and deeds of others is one of the most frustrating aspects of life on this planet. I heard the Wild Animal Park’s Rhino died, and there are now 5 left in the world. How irresponsible and arrogant we can be! And how wonderful that the WAP and others work so tirelessly to save the planet and it’s inhabitants.

  6. Sweet and adorable eyes. They are haunting and seem to be worming their way into my heart, Cindy! You shared so much in these photographs that made me go back three times to really look at them.

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