Northern Elephant Seal

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Marine Animals, Pacific Northwest

Northern Elephant Seal
Northern Elephant Seal, Photo By Sean McCann

The Northern Elephant Seal is a rare visitors to the BC coast. Elephant seals, like all seals, lack external ear flaps and crawl on land with rhythmic belly flops. In contrast, seals such as sea lions, have visible ears, & hind flippers, used to turn underneath their bodies for walking. The elephant seals great size, and the long nose of the males is why they are named so.

Elephant seals can dive deep, to about 500 meters and elephant seals can stay under water for up to 30 minutes at a time, and seldom stay at the surface for more than a few minutes.

Hundred of thousands of northern elephant seals lived in the Pacific Ocean before hunters slaughtered them for their blubber, which was rendered into lamp oil. By the late 1800s there were less than 100 seals left in the world, they all lived on one colony that was located on Guadalupe island. In 1922, the Mexican government granted norther elephant seals protected status.

A few years later, when elephant seals began appearing in Southern California waters, the United States provided the seals with the same protection. As a result, the current population of northern elephant seals is about 160,000 – highlighting the value of protective status, and of marine sanctuaries, in the conservation of our oceans.

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