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Social seal visits Crescent Beach

On Sept. 26, this visitor landed on Orcas Island by way of East Sound.  - Contributed photo
On Sept. 26, this visitor landed on Orcas Island by way of East Sound.
— image credit: Contributed photo

The elephant seal that came ashore was a nine-foot long sub-adult male and probably weighed 1500 to 2000 pounds, said SeaDoc Director Regional Director Joe Gaydos, who added that adult males can be 15 feet long and can weigh in at 4,000 to 5,000 pounds.

Elephant seals are the largest of the true or “earless” seals in North America. “They are my favorite pinniped and I am going to give a talk on them for our Marine Lecture Series Family night at Camp Orkila on Dec. 5,” said Gaydos.

“There were three times in history when people thought elephant seals went extinct. They were harvested for their oil; a four-meter (12-foot) elephant seal can yield 325 liters of oil. But each time (thankfully) a remnant population was found. The population has recovered and is growing, which probably explains why we are seeing them more in the San Juans.”

Gaydos says that the elephant seals breed on islands and beaches from Central Baja California to Central California. Satellite tracking and underwater time-depth records have shown that adult seals that breed off of the coast of California make two migrations from California to the Aleutian Islands and back every year. One of these round trips averages 12,000 km. Juvenile males, like the one on Crescent beach, leave the site of their birth and travel north an average of 1,000 kilometers to feed.

Elephant seals feed on deepwater and bottom-dwelling organisms like squid and fish. “We don’t know what they are eating when they are in the San Juans,” says Gaydos, who adds that the sub-adult male seen on Crescent beach on Sept. 26 was sighted again on the beach of Camp Indralaya on Sept. 28, suggesting he was hanging around Eastsound.

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