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”.

Get the Latest News & Updates


Friends of the Elephant Seal is a 501(c) (3) non- profit corporation, relying on grants, sponsorships, memberships and your donations. Your charitable contribution supports our programs.

Sign Up for E-mail Updates

Be among the first to receive updates, photos, events and more about the Piedras Blancas northern elephant seal colony. The Friends of the Elephant Seal does not share your personal information with outside advertisers or other organizations.

Follow Us

Follow Friends of the Elephant Seal on our social channels for up-to-the-minute updates and images from the rookery.

Friends of the Elephant Seal is a cooperating association with California State Parks.

Translate »