Saturday, March 28, 2009

Elephant seal on Willows Beach, Victoria B.C.

Every year elephant seals haul themselves out of the water to moult. They lie there for days as their skin peels off. This female is dozing at Willows Beach, in Victoria, B.C. while waiting for her spring coat to come in. Robin Baird, of Simon Fraser University, has this article about this behavior. More and more elephant seals are showing on beaches on Vancouver Island, because their numbers are on the rise. The seals came close to extinction at the end of the 19th century, after they were hunted for their blubber. California State Parks has a good account of the species.
Here is the Victoria Times-Colonist's report on the seal.
As you can see from the newspaper photo, the seal is pretty oblivious to people coming close, though Fisheries and Oceans Canada has since barricaded it behind yellow fire scene tape. Although it looks remarkably like a log from a distance, it's easy to find on the beach. Just look for the crowd of people.

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