Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 20 May 2019

Elephant seals take over California beach during shutdown

Without rangers to discourage them during a US government shutdown, the seals have expanded their California pupping grounds

A colony of elephant seals took over a beach in Northern California during the government shutdown when there were no staff to discourage the animals from congregating in the popular tourist area, an official said.

Now they're not going anywhere.

About 60 adult seals that gave birth to 35 pups took over a beach in Point Reyes National Seashore, knocking down a fence and moving into the car park, the San Francisco Chronicle reported on Wednesday.

The park north of San Francisco is home to a colony of about 1,500 elephant seals that tend to frequent another beach with 30-metre cliffs that keep the animals protected and mostly hidden from the public, said park spokesman John Dell'Osso.

Mr Dell'Osso said it's likely that recent storms and high tides inundated the animal's normal habitat with water and so they sought a wider area of dry land around the corner.

"Sometimes you go out with tarps and you shake the tarps and it annoys them and they move the other direction," he said.

But because nobody was at work to address the seal migration, the animals took over. One seal even ventured under a picnic table near a cafe, the newspaper reported.

The elephant seals were lounging in the sand after the park reopened on Sunday, leading staff to temporarily close the road to the beach.

Officials have no plans to move the animals while some of them nurse their pups.

Staff is considering offering guided tours of the elephant colony, Mr Dell'Osso said.

Updated: February 3, 2019 03:05 PM