Fun Facts

  • Elephant seals take their name from the large proboscis of the adult male (bull), which resembles an elephant’s trunk.
  • Elephant seals were hunted to the brink of extinction by the end of the 19th century. Fortunately, their numbers have since recovered.
  • While resting on the beach, the seals fast (don’t eat), living off their blubber. They don’t even breathe much of the time, to conserve both water and energy.
  • Northern elephant seal adult males and young adult males haul out during June to August to molt.
  • Northern elephant seal females and juvenile seals molt during April to May.
  • The northern elephant seal is the largest seal in the northern hemisphere and the second largest seal in the world (after the southern elephant seal).
  • The maximum lifespan of male seals is 14 years; females may live to be over 20.
  • Male elephant seals weigh as much as a small truck or cargo van.
  • Elephant seals spend up to 80% of their lives in the ocean.
  • They can hold their breath for more than 100 minutes – longer than any other non-cetacean mammal.
  • They can cover 60 miles a day when they head out to sea.
  • Elephant seals dive to 1,550 m (5,090 ft) beneath the ocean’s surface, though the average depth of their dives is about 300 to 600 m (980 to 1,970 ft), typically for around 20 minutes for females and 60 minutes for males.
  • Their favorite foods vary by their foraging locations.  Females in deep water are most likely to eat lanternfish, hake and ragfish and squid to a lesser extent. Males may focus on bottom-dwelling skates, rays, squid, octopuses, eels, small sharks and large fish. Their stomachs also often contain gastroliths.
  • They spend only brief amounts of time at the surface to rest between dives (2–3 minutes). Females tend to dive a bit deeper due to their prey source.
  • Elephant seals are shielded from extreme cold more by their blubber than by fur.
  • Their hair and outer layers of skin molt in large patches. The skin has to be regrown by blood vessels reaching through the blubber.
  • When molting, the seal must avoid the cold ocean temperatures, and rest on land, in a safe place called a “haul out”.

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