First bull arrival! This big guy was first spotted on Thanksgiving Day on the south beach at the Elephant Seal Viewing Area.
We had 142 entries in our Friends of the Elephant Seal First Bull Contest and 13 winners! Congratulations to Chris Kelly, Julia Buck, Tony Martinez, Coral DeWitt, Donna Tipps, Rick Harris, Katherine Gabel , and six of our FES Docents, Phil Arnold, Becky Manfredini, Jim David, Harry Burger, Julie Haugsness, and Joe Crabtree for your correct prediction of November 23, 2023. And a nice birthday present for Julie Haugsness as well
Many thanks to our good friend Kris Clifford, who used a telephoto lens to capture this photo!
The bulls start their long distance swim to the Piedras Blancas rookery, from their foraging locations, thousands of miles away, along the northwest coast of North America and from the Gulf of Alaska/ Aleutian Islands. Upon their arrival, each will take a long rest and establish a spot for their harem. The female seals will begin to arrive in December and give birth within a week of arrival.
The breeding season costs them substantial energy, as they live off their stored blubber, losing 40% of their body mass. They will not eat again until they leave the beach in March! Their ability to put on weight over the months leading up to the winter season will determine their mass and help them to be successful on the breeding beaches. Only 5-8% of all male elephant seals survive to adulthood and among those hearty souls, scientists estimate that only 1% reach the prime age of 11 or 12 years.
Congratulations to our winners and watch for much more news as we approach the Winter season!
(Photo credit: Kris Clifford)