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Thursday, April 5, 2012

Shore is nap time

Can you guess whose tracks these are?

The smooth central part of this track is about a foot across; the smaller scrapes on each side are about 6 inches wide.

Although the track pattern looks very much like that of a turtle, here's the front flipper of the animal responsible for the tracks.

A juvenile Northern Elephant Seal (Mirounga angustirostris) on Salmon Creek Beach (3 April 2012).  [Note these images were taken with a zoom lens so as not to disturb the seal.]

Compared with Harbor Seals, elephant seals have very broad heads, large eyes, uniformly brown fur (but generally darker above and lighter below), and black whiskers.  Harbor Seal fur usually has scattered darker spots or splotches and their whiskers are paler or silvery (see below). 

Elephant seals are less common on Bodega Head than Harbor Seals or California Sea Lions, but they show up on local beaches a few times every year.  In this area, most elephant seals are juveniles.  The closest breeding colony is at Point Reyes.  See the Point Reyes website for more information about elephant seals and viewing them near Chimney Rock.

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