Government shutdown turns beach north of San Francisco into an elephant seal maternity ward

Featured image by Pringlea, courtesy Pixabay

The December 2018–January 2019 shutdown, the longest in U.S. history, was the most difficult on many levels—especially for the federal workers who were not paid for weeks. But there was one unexpected benefit for some elephant seals in California. A popular beach 30 miles north of San Francisco became the perfect place for giving birth to their pups.

By the time the shutdown ended, an estimated 100 cows (a female seal) and their nursing pups, along with a few three-ton males, had settled at Drakes Beach at the Point Reyes National Seashore. “They have spilled into the parking lot, sheltering under picnic tables and crushing wooden railings under their weight,” The Guardian newspaper reported on February 2. “Their presence means that the beach is now off-limit to humans.”

Read the story about the elephant seals from The Guardian.

Now, the road to Drakes Beach is open only on weekends and federal holidays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., when volunteer docents lead groups of people from the Kenneth C. Patrick Visitor Center to a viewpoint to watch the seals without disburbing them. The National Park Service plans to continue this service until April, when the pups are weaned and the seals leave. No reservations for viewing are required; simply show up at the Kenneth C. Patrick Visitor Center when the tours are scheduled.

Get updates on the seals at the Point Reyes National Seashore website.

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