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Seals and Sea Lions

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Seals and Sea Lions are categorized as Pinnipedia.  They are further divided into Eared or True Seals.  These range along our coast in the inter-tidal zone using rocky or sand beach haul-outs.

Species Description
Pacific Harbor Seal

Photo by Bonnie Plakos
The Pacific Harbor Seal (Phoca Vitulina richardsii) is often called the Common Seal. This water mammal resides year round on our coast. They always present with spots on fur. The coloring can be dark with lighter spots, or light with darker spots. These are not vocal animals and only vocalize as pups. Adults can hiss and threaten with movement or posturing or flipper waving.The numbers vary in density at the haul-outs, subject to ocean storm conditions, tidal swings, and human disruption. Harbor seals are an indicator species of note as they live in our inter-tidal and land run-off areas. The Sea Ranch has a fairly stable population of between 150 and 200 animals.
Pacific Harbor Seal Pups

Photo by Bonnie Plakos
The Pacific Harbor Seals (Phoca vitulina richardsii) have their young (pups) from late March into June. Birthing and nursing are a short bonding time, usually 4-6 weeks. Human disruption of the pairs often compromises the young if they become separated from mothers. Pups alone on beaches and rocky areas should be left alone and not approached. Mother seals often forage without the pups along and will return to nurse and care for them.
Northern Elephant Seal

Photo by Bonnie Plakos
The Northern Elephant Seal (Mirounga angurstirostris) can be seen hauled out on Sea Ranch beaches occasionally. The "black coat" weaners often wash off the birthing beaches in Ano Nuevo or Pt. Reyes in storms in spring. Later in the year older ones rest on beaches while they do a catastrophic yearly molt. These are deep divers and can breath hold for 20-25 minutes, so the breathing cessation leads people to think they are dead. Solid color with black whiskers and large eyes, these animals can grow to heavy weights. The adult male with proboscis (nose) is not usually seen on Sea Ranch beaches.
Northern Elephant Seal (emaciated weaner)

Photo by Bonnie Plakos
Short text description for this species needed.
California Sea Lion

Photo by Craig Tooley
The California Sea Lion (Zalophus californianus) is an eared seal. They migrate north along our coast from their breeding on the Channel Islands. Sea Lions are usually only seen on Sea Ranch coastal outcroppings and beaches for brief periods while resting, or if they are injured or ill. Domoic acid poisoning causing seizures will bring them to The Sea Ranch beaches during June through September. Leptosporosis is another common illness that may cause the animals to strand. Sea Lions are still seen as predatory to fishermen's catches and often end up on the beaches after being shot. Sea Lions travel in "rafts" in spring and fall, presenting a strange agglomeration of raised flippers as they rest, forage or move about. There is a year-round population of Sea Lions to the north of Gualala, around "Fish Rocks".
Northern Fur Seal

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The Northern Fur Seal (Callorhinus ursinus) is an endangered eared seal. Not seen often on our beaches, but moves southward October to December and northern migration from April to June.

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