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Northern elephant seal

Female elephant seals are smaller than males and their nose is not as pronounced in size.
Female elephant seals are smaller than males and their nose is not as pronounced in size. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Northern elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris) spend most of their life at sea and underwater, diving deep and staying under for a half hour or longer to feed in the dark on squid, fish, rays and sharks. They come ashore, usually to sandy beaches, to breed in the winter and to molt in the spring and summer.

Once hunted nearly to extinction for their oil-rich blubber, they are now protected and have rebounded in population. They range from Mexico to Alaska and Hawaii in search of food, and increasing numbers have been seen molting in the San Juan Islands.

Elephant seals have thick bodies, short front flippers and webbed rear flippers. Males develop a large inflatable nose, and can grow to 13 feet and 4,400 pounds. Females are smaller, but still large, at 10 feet and 1,300 pounds. Males are dark brown, while females are brown to blond.

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