A herd of elephant seals that moved onto a California beach during January’s government shutdown shows no sign of giving up its newly gained territory in the immediate future.
“As you may have heard, Drakes Beach is under new management,” Point Reyes National Seashore wrote on Facebook on Friday afternoon. “Elephant seals have taken over!!!”
The post said that while the beach would remain closed to humans this weekend “at the direction of the new management,” the nearby road and parking lot would be open during the day for elephant seal viewing.
Earlier this week, SFGate reported that around 50 to 60 adult elephant seals had made themselves comfortable on the beach and around 35 pups had been born. The seals also plowed through a fence to spill out into the adjacent parking area.
They did this all while wildlife management staffers were furloughed because of the government shutdown.
John Dell’Osso, chief of interpretation and resource education at Point Reyes National Seashore, told Vice that if the shutdown hadn’t been underway, staffers would have been around to discourage the seals from congregating in the area, likely using tarps and waving at them to move off.
But now that pups have arrived, it’s best for the seals that they be allowed to stay, at least for a while.
“They’re at a critical time: the pups have been born there, they’re nursing,” Dell’Osso told The Guardian. “We’re not going to disrupt that process.”
The seals won’t remain on the beach forever, though.
“Pups usually wean from their mothers in late March - early April,” Dell’Osso told HuffPost in an email. “So our best guess is by sometime in April, most of the elephant seals will disperse.”
This story has been updated with an additional comment from John Dell’Osso.