Last Saturday, February 23, some members and friends of MSI visited Ano Nuevo State Park to see the amazing Northern Elephant Seals. As we enjoyed a breezy walk along the ever-changing cliffs lead by our docent, Susan Nickels, we learned not only about the life history of elephant seals, but also some interesting information about the natural history of the area.
Some of us noticed that the cliffs, dunes and even the plant life of Ano Nuevo has changed since we last saw it. The area is split by 5 fault lines, which are constantly moving and changing the water tables that affect the plants. The waves continuously carve out the cliffs–moving the edge back by over 75 feet in the past fifty years. The wind we were experiencing is the same wind that has dramatically altered the sand dunes in the area–even uncovering an Ohlone midden!
But course we had come to see the Northern Elephant Seals. At this time of year many
of the pups were weaned from their mothers–they only nurse for one month, during which they gain a tremendous amount of weight. The beach was crowded with “weaner pods” or groups of these young, weaned pups. There were also quite a few females still nursing their pups and alpha males still guarded their harems. We even got to witness a couple “domestic disputes” in which a lesser male tried to approach a female–the alpha quickly sent this young rogue on his way!
This was a very memorable trip to a beautiful coastal location. I felt blessed to see so many of these powerful animals that were once hunted nearly to extinction (less than 100 individuals). If you haven’t been lately, a trip to Ano Nuevo always has something new to offer. Get out there while the seals are still around!
~Felicia Van Stolk
For more pictures of our adventure visit our facebook page!