Ellie Seal Pups~

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Piedras Blancas in California has a thriving rookery of Northern Elephant Seals, a sub-species of the largest seals in the world reaching up to 5000 pounds and 16 feet in length. Pups are born here mostly in the month of January.

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Births peak mid January.
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Over 5000 births occur annually here. Some nice mamas like this one, feed pups other than their own!

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Elephant seals nurse for about a month, during this time, mothers stay with pups continuously and do not return to to the sea to feed until weaning is complete.

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Elephant Seal milk is the richest milk in the mammalian world, which it needs to be since elephant seals grow so rapidly. This cheeky seagull pecked this little pup causing him to unlatch during nursing, releasing milk, which the seagull tried to drink!

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Mama obviously did not approve!
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There are still newborns in the rookery now, identifiable by their neonatal folds.

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Maternal infant bonds are evident and strong! Mamas can be seen frequently kissing pups.
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Northern Elephant Seal populations were hunted to the brink of extinction and by the late 1800’s there were under 100 of them left worldwide. The species has made a remarkable come-back due to conservation efforts and marine mammal protections.

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Cheers to you from the friendly ellie-pups at Piedras Blancas Rookery~

To see how big these little guys will grow check out my post from a year ago about the bulls:
https://cindyknoke.com/tag/northern-bull-elephant-seal-mating-behavior/

220 thoughts on “Ellie Seal Pups~

  1. I never tire of seeing the way the mamas of any mammal care for and feed their young. Such a touching scene to see their gentle nature demonstrated in so many ways.

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  2. Marvelous photos. I’d seen seal colonies along the coast of CA, but never the pups. The mamas with the big soulful eyes and tender looks are so touching. Thanks so much for such a delightful treat.

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  3. SO cute! Amazing that the males will grow to be an intimidating 5,000 pounds, wow! Thanks for the close-ups of the little ones as well as the interesting facts. 🙂

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      • Oh what a great idea Cindy! Hmm, that would make an amazing day trip with my nephews too. The oldest one has developed a great fascination with marine life too. Thanks for the idea! 🙂

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        • Do it! The only deal is the mating is quite violent and will be happening soon now. I have never seen it live, only on video, and don’t want to see it, so depending on your nephew’s ages it might not be appropriate.There is no mating now. But there will be shortly. After mating, only the pups are left on the beach, and they stay for a month by themselves, until they get really hungry, and finally risk the trip to the sea. This month long period when the pups are alone on the beach, would be an incredible time to bring your nephews! It is coming up relatively soon. Check with the Piedras Blancas website. I think they would remember this all their lives.

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          • Thanks for the tips! I’ll keep timing in mind (as yeah, my nephews aren’t quite ready to see any blood). I’ve been trying to find ways to entertain them and just re-watched some of my childhood favorites (Secret of Nihm and Dark Crystal), saw a couple of instances with stabbings and went, “Uhhh… Nope!” However, the adult male elephant seals take it to a whole ‘nother level!

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  4. Cute aren’t they. I remember seeing so many on my train trip from Picton to Kaikora in NZ. They just lazed about on the rocks. In Loncolnshire, we saw a single seal in the River Witham on one occasion, and Hubby saw an otter here last year. Wildlife never ceases to amaze me. Beautiful shots.

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  5. Great captures and amazing story of nursing young/baby elephant seals. The mothers are kind enough to nurse other babies other than their own. I quite sure that help their society bonded together from day one. That was a great observation of mother seal kisses her babies often. That is lovely!

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  6. What wonderful photos, Cindy! We were treated to seal pups when we were in the Galapagos. Totally unafraid and wanting to play when we were in the water. Would come up to us and nudge us or nip our toes if we were just sitting by the water. Could not touch! Hardest thing I ever didn’t do!

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    • Oh what a wonderful experience! They will be alone on the beach soon for several weeks and I wonder what it would be like to be with them at this time. Amazing, I’d bet~ᶘ ᵒᴥᵒᶅ

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  7. Thank goodness for conservationists and people, like you, who care! ❤ What a treasured glimpse into the lives of these animals…thank you for sharing with us! I'll never get to see this scene in person so I'm all the more grateful for your post.

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      • LOL – the gulls crowd out the crows when I throw scraps of food out to them, but I did see one crow grab a seagull by the wing-tip and drag it away so that the other crows could get to the food! It was hilarious to see.
        XD

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        • You are perceptive! Seagulls are so incredibly intelligent, the only bird that trumps them in their environment, are raptors, and corvids (ravens and crows). Seriously intelligent birds, all of them. So happy you are watching them. They teach us the most important things. Be well my friend~

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  8. Cindy, I am continually in awe of your stunning photographs! These are amazing, and so interesting about the elephant seals. You must just stalk the nature areas and have the longest telephoto lens in the world. Didn’t get too many pics yesterday of the snow geese at the Colusa Wildlife Refuge 😦 Too much water, so too deep for them to feed. They apparently had dinner elsewhere!

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  9. Aw, they’re so sweet, both mamas and babes! Thank you for getting up close so we who’ve never been to the refuge can see them. Don’t you love their little whiskers?!?

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