Los Toros Del Mar~

Northern bull elephant seals weigh up to 5000 pounds and reach up to 16 feet in length! Their Southern counterparts are larger.
In addition to their size, they are quite bullish in behavior, fighting constantly with other males,


and forcing themselves on often quite unwilling females,

who are much smaller than they are.

On shore they dominate large harems and defend them from other males.
Male Northern Elephant Seals spend eight months alone at sea. They forage in deep dives 24 hours a day, often at the bottom of the ocean, where other predators are scarce.
The deepest recorded bull elephant dive was 5788 feet and the longest recorded continuous dive was just over two hours on one breath!


California male elephant seals forage at the edge of the continental shelf, all the way to the Aleutian islands. Orcas and sharks predate on them and approximately one in three males are killed each year, mainly by orcas.
Cheers to you from the bullish, and amazing, male elephant seals at Piedras Blancas Rookery in California~

Source (and for more information) check out: http://www.elephantseal.org/

212 thoughts on “Los Toros Del Mar~

    1. They are spread over six miles on the shoreline. I was walking along the road next to them and inadvertently came upon an irate male. A 5000 pound irate creatures gets your full attention!

    1. It doesn’t seem adaptive. Dominant bulls get huge harems and most males are left out of mating all together. Babies are squashed during violent mating. I guess the idea is that dominant males are passing on strong genes, but still it seems pointless. Maybe they are just passing on bullying genes!

        1. Well that and excessive crowding have been shown to create irritability in both animals and humans. So they have only the two extremes. Total aloneness while they must be continuously alert for predation, following by excessive over crowding and challenges in the rookery. Poor behemoths~

    1. They are just remarkable, particularly when you consider they were hunted to the needle point of extinction, there were something like 50 or 60 northern elephant seals left in the world. They were hunted for lamp oil mostly. Now at Piedras Blancas alone, there are 23,000!

    1. They are always yelling at each other! As you approach the rookery, you hear that strange booming sound of the males bugling! I am so glad you got to experience this~

    1. I didn’t pick up any scent, not like sea lions that can really reek! Maybe because while they are at the rookery the males and females never go to sea and never eat. They can loose half their body weight. Since they are not eating for over a month (the males longer) they are not excreting and not smelling. I am guessing here though…..

  1. These are really ugly dudes, Cindy! But really scary, too! I was walking along a seal strewn beach in the Galapagos when I got too close and one of the bulls challenged me. I ran! Later I was joined in a swim by two seal pups – they wanted to play but I couldn’t keep up! Love the pictures – they bring back some nice memories.

    1. That happened to me. I was walking on the road past the rookery when I can upon a male who gallumped after me. It wasn’t as intense as getting charged by a truly irritable bull elephant in Africa though! That was something! Most charges are mock, but still…..
      It must have been incredible to swim with the pups! I have photos of them spinning in the water and wanting to play but I didn’t actually swim with them. Wonderful that you did!

  2. It is not at all impossible I’ve been along that piece of shoreline when I visited the US, already far to long ago. There were creatures like these lying around, but I don’t remember a lot of noise. Maybe they were ‘just’ seals or sea wildebeasts (if you got sea elephants then why not wildebeasts). What they did do was lying snuggly on top of each other. Not the mating (raping) variant, but nice and cozy and with audible pleasure. I saw envy in the eyes of some of the lonely looking watchers at the edge of the parking lot. But I could have been mistaken.

    1. I have seen what you are describing. The ellies stretch for six miles along the beach. The males with the harems and the babies are in the rookery, and then all the lonely males and some smart females who avoid the rookery stretch out along the shore. These distant males are the ones who are either adolescents or didn’t get a harem. They just lay there, right by the road sometimes, and get annoyed when you inadvertently come upon them! They are amazing creatures aren’t they! Very cool that you came here~

    1. Their lives at sea fascinate me. The females are at sea longer than the males. I have been to Piedras Blancas at varying times of year. The first time I was there, the males were just arriving from their months at sea. They swam to shore with their heads up scanning the beach with these gigantic eyes that looked like plates and these just massive heads. I grew up swimming in California’s waters. If I ever saw one of these big males while swimming I probably would have had a heart attack!

    1. Excellent point and I love brave commenters! I saw some females that avoided the rookery all together and camped out on more distant beaches by themselves. Smart females! It was impossible for me to restrain myself from thinking, “If I was a female elephant seal, I would kit myself out on some abandoned beach and hang out with sea turtles or something.”

  3. They are something, aren’t they? I once had lunch at a restaurant in Swaziland that had a deck over a rhino pond (many moons ago now). They were so big and aggressive and yet graceful (and very fast) in the water. The elephant seals remind me of them.

    Wonderful photos. πŸ™‚

    1. Yes, I can see why! It is interesting because they use completely different muscles all the months they are out at sea and then when they come on land they seem awkward but impressive. It would be incredible to see them swimming at depths. They must just fly! Here is a video that a kid took showing a female at 894 meters! You can just see a tiny glimpse of her snout eating a hagfish. Amazing!

  4. Amazing photos of amazing beasts, Cindy. Thanks for sharing. The photos look as if you were on the beach with them, and close up, but I guess not. How close were you able to get to them? They look rather scary to get too up close and personal!

    1. In the rookery there is a fence you stay behind on elevated ground. Past the rookery it got more tricky as the elevation drops off quickly and there is no more fence. I walked around a bluff and there were the seals and a bull. Basically, only a fool, or trained biologist ,would go on the beach. I stayed on the side trails and never went on the beach, but there are places where you get close inadvertently. When this happened once, I just walked quickly away. The closest I got was around 20 feet but this was on elevation, in other words, I was on an elevated bluff above the seals. The time I walked upon the seals, I was further away, but on level ground and this was more dangerous.

  5. You’re the queen of Sealfies, my friend! (◦′ᆺ‡◦) ♬° ✧β₯✧¸.β€’*Β¨*βœ§β™‘βœ§ β„’β„΄Ρ΅β„― βœ§β™‘βœ§*Β¨*β€’.β₯

  6. Great photos. Is this anywhere near AΓ±o Nuevo State Park? I saw the elephant seals there years ago when I lived in San Francisco. They are amazing.

  7. Naming them after elephants is quite apt! Incredible photos, and I can imagine the chorus of loud calls they were making too! Thanks again for this guided tour. By the way, this is Lynn. I changed my avatar (again)!

  8. Great shots.

    Imagine being nagged by a whole harem. “My mother told me you’d never amount to much”. ” Yeah and when are you going to put up those shelves.” “Get off, I’ve got a headache.”


    1. I spend a big portion of my career providing treatment to spousal abusers. This rookery needs some serious treatment, but I fear the bulls would be treatment resistant! πŸ˜‰

      1. I could not even imagine how big are their lungs to keep so much air and do not breath for so long. Human brain cannot stay with no air for more than 3-5 minutes. Might be they do not have brain at all. (It is just a joke). πŸ™‚ It looks they have absolutely different breathing system.

    1. It does put them into perspective doesn’t it, when you realize 1 in 3 of them die every year from predation at sea. They is a very tough life. Thank you and hugs to you Sally~ <3

  9. I have been to this rookery and you did an excellent job of capturing the immensity of the elephant seals, Cindy. Enjoyed the info too. We are so fortunate that these elephant seals grace our planet. Excellent post, always a treat~~

    1. We like many of the same natural spaces my friend. We like these places because they help us to perceive ourselves and the world around us more accurately.
      For me going to these places a lot confirms not only my relative unimportance, but the fact that I am infinitesimal, but connected to a far greater and more important whole.

      Which is such a gigantic relief!

  10. Up to 5000 pds! It’s wonderful to have such close look of these creatures. Thank you so much, Cindy for posting these amazing photo captures!

  11. The rookery for saving these wild seals. The size and imposition on the poor females probably is more distressing to us than the females which don’t know any better. Or so we hope, Cindy! Sad the babies are lost in the mating moments once in awhile. Take it easy, dear Cindy! <3 xo

    1. I will never forget the first time I saw one. It was an adult male and he was in the water approaching the beach. His head came up out of the water and his eyes were as big as saucers and his head was just massive! I was blown away by him. I still am. So glad you see their beauty too!

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