A northern California beach has been invaded by strange creatures. They awkwardly waddle with their long, slinky noses hung high. About 60 of them have been lounging on the sandy shores of the Point Reyes National Seashore near San Francisco with their mini-mes. These aren’t any ordinary beasts—they’re elephant seals.
These marine mammals, whose males can weigh up to 4,400 pounds, have been chilling on this public beach since, well, no one’s quite sure because park rangers weren’t there to see them arrive. The park rangers discovered the colony, which had just gained 35 new pups, on Sunday when the park reopened following the end of a government shutdown that lasted a record-breaking 35 days, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Usually, elephant seals are out of sight taking refuge on a separate beach with 100-foot-tall cliffs. However, high tides and stormy weather may have attracted them to this new empty beach nearby. They trampled down a fence to reach it and called it home. With all the park employees out of work, no one was there to discourage this hunkering down.
Now the park crew will have a tough time trying to move these gentle giants. So they’re not. They’re keeping the road closed to protect the not-so-little seal families. In the 1800s, elephant seals were believed extinct from commercial hunting. They’re now protected as all marine mammals are but face threats from fishing gear and ship traffic.
Park officials are considering offering guided tours so that the public can bear witness to these extraordinary animals. That sounds a lot easier than getting the seals to move. Thank you, government shutdown, for this one delight.