By early April, breeding season is over but the females and juveniles returned to the beach for their annual molt. Elephant Seals replace their skin and hair all at once in what is called a 'catastrophic molt'.
While there, I saw many of the animals throwing sand on themselves.
Perhaps a form of sunscreen lotion for their sensitive new skin.
Elephant seals have managed to come back from the brink after given protected status from unrestrained commercial sealing in the 1800s.
They used to be hunted for oil made from their blubber.
From a handful of individuals, the Northern Elephant Seals numbers have recovered to over 160,000.
San Simeon provides a fenced lookout on the clift overlooking the beach. No cost to enter and park, and no reservations required.
The Elephant Seals are just a few feet below as they come right up to the edge of the small clift.
Their flippers have fingers and claws at the end. Great for scratching!
Most of the time, everyone is slumbering peacfully. But little scuffles break out now and then. Maybe someone was snoring too loud!
That big bruiser on the left is a young male. Even though not yet fully grown, he's still very much larger than the female - whom he's lunging towards (and then biting for some reason).
The Elephant Seals molt in shifts. April to May are the females and juveniles. May to June are the Sub adult males, and July to August are the Adult males. Guess it works out better for everyone that way!
Looks like a young pup with a shiny new silver coat.
Pups are weened after 4 to 6 weeks, and take to the sea the last 3 weeks of April.
Takes lots of effort to raise themselves up like this!
Flashing elephant seal gang signs? Naw, just scratching themselves!
Sort of puppy dog eyes.
Vigorously applying a fresh coat of sand!
More flexible than me!
Blubber is soooo comfy!
Maybe start to see the beginnings of that prehensile nose - which means this is a male.
Kind of reminds me of 'Leatherface'. What, no chainsaw?
These 2 were not quite getting along.
Not to be confused with Sea Lions, the Elephant Seals are much larger.
The 'small' females are between 10 and 12 feet in lenght, and weighs up to 2000 lbs!
Full grown males are between 14 and 16 feet long, and eight up to 5000 lbs! No, he's not eating the sand. Looked like he rubbed it on his nose though.
They seemed to like to congregate in huge body piles.
Usually pretty quiet, but when someone wants to move, it does cause a scene!
There's some vocalization, but nowhere near as raucous as during mating season!
Mmmmm...makes me sleepy.
Elephant seals spent most of their days in the ocean. Seems like they only come on land for mating and molting!
Seagulls are very common, but it's still fun to try to get an interesting shot.
San Simeon has a little cove and stretch of beach which is perfect shelter for the Elephant Seals.
Wall to wall bodies.
Saw some of the birds picking at the molted skin. Guess they will eat anything!
Golden evening light is so nice.
A young pup pulls itself out of the water.
Getting ready to make that big leap out to the open ocean!
If you're ever in the vicinity, you should drop by and check them out. Do note that their presence is seasonal - so look it up and plan accordingly!