December 28, 2023. High tide 9:52 AM, 20-25 ft waves combine in the perfect storm…

High tide, combined with huge waves flooded the Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal rookery beaches for hours, with relentless force. Vulnerable newborn northern elephant seal pups and their mothers were helpless in the surf, which pounded against the dunes over and over again.

With each wave, pups were separated from their mothers and scrambled to recover. Floating debris complicated the scene, creating even more hazards for the pups.

Newborn northern elephant seal pups are particularly vulnerable, as they have not yet developed a blubber layer to protect them from the cold, nor have they learned to swim. They are completely dependent on their mother for everything!

After a particularly forceful surge, a mom and pup were separated and the mother desperately called for the pup. The pup answered and the mom ran to the pup’s side and encouraged the pup to move up the beach and away from the water’s edge.

Surviving events like this are one of many challenges that northern elephant seals face in our changing climate. We celebrate their courage and honor their determination to make it through this difficult day!

Photos and video of this event captured from South beach webcam

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