Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Marine Mammals on the Lost Coast

While out exploring the Lost Coast Trail there is a good chance you’ll come across seals and sea lions on the beach. Most likely these will be harbor seals, Stellar sea lions, or in one area there may also be northern elephant seals.

The presence of elephant seals here is new and if the few pups born this winter wean this spring, this will be the farthest northern breeding colony that has been established! This is exciting as being able to witness the creation of a new elephant seal colony is a rare opportunity.

Photo by Jesse Irwin

In part, the elephant seals are here because of the remote and undisturbed nature of the lost coast. This is a great example of the importance of wilderness areas.  They are a welcoming place for wild animals – a place where they can go and not be harassed and disturbed by the constant presence of humans and all of our developments, machines, and noise. This is wild nature at its finest and I’m proud that we have set aside such places where the plants and animals are free to roam and proliferate without the ever present manipulation of mankind.  What better areas to observe the undisturbed natural functions of the world?

The Wilderness Act of 1964 states:

“A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”

You can help the marine mammals of the Lost Coast by keeping at least 50 meters from the animals. They may seem slow and sluggish at first glance but if they’re disturbed or agitated they can move very fast in a very short amount of time. It won’t be any problem to crush you with their 1,500 – 4,500 pounds of weight.   Staying at least 150 Feet (about 50 paces) from the animals will help keep you safe as well as treat them with the respect and undisturbed habitat they deserve.  These guidelines are mandated by the Marine Mammal Protection Act – a federal law that has helped many marine mammal species recover.  So, please help us maintain this peaceful and safe place, not only for elephant seals, but for all of the marine mammal visitors to our coast.

In addition, please be very mindful of your dogs – which are required to be on a leash or under voice control at all times. Dogs are probably one of the largest threats to the disturbance and physical harm to the seals and sea lions of the Lost Coast.

Please note that seals and sea lions can go for long periods without breathing or moving while on land!  Please enjoy them from a safe distance (150 feet).  If, however you notice a sick or injured marine mammal that you think needs attention you can report it to the North Coast Marine Mammal Center  at 707-951-4722.  If the animal is dead, please call the HSU Marine Mammal Stranding Hotline at 707-826-3650.   

Thank you!

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