A big weekend at the Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery!  Early Saturday morning, December 16, 2023, we noticed a collection of gulls around a couple of seals in the distance on the south beach. On looking further, two tiny heads were visible, but very far away from the Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Viewing Area south beach vantage point. After a few minutes, the first two pups were confirmed!  Congratulations to Tim Bridwell and Pam Raney, who guessed the date of arrival in our “first pup” contest.

At dawn on Sunday morning, we heard the calls of another pup, picked up by the microphone on our live-streaming South beach cam. Another pup had been born!

The newborn pup and mom were very close to the water’s edge and the tide was rising. At several points, the pup was lifted from the sand on breaking waves, tense moments for all who were watching! 

In addition to the threat of the surf, a series of sub-adult male seals harassed the mom and pup. That is a common occurrence among early season births, as the bulls are not always paying attention. Although elephant seal moms fight off and chase the sub-adult male elephant seals, newborn pups are often in harm’s way between these much larger seals.

Northern elephant seal sub-adult male seal harassing female seal and newborn pup

Bull to the rescue!  A nearby bull (adult male elephant seal) intermittently chased away the intruders and provided some support for the new mom and pup, while she moved the pup away from the water.  At the end of the day, they were safe and resting on dry beach, well away from the water’s edge. A peaceful ending to a stressful first day for this mom and pup!

Northern elephant seal bull, female and pup, resting on beach

Photo credits: Desiree Phillips (1 & 2) Kathleen Curtis (3)

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