On Sunday we went up to the Marine Mammal Center in the Marin Headlands, just north of San Francisco. It was a warm and sunny day, which in my experience of the Marin Headlands, is rare. Here is our view looking back at San Francisco.
We wanted to see the seals at the Mammal Center; it’s pupping season, so all the baby seals that get separated from their moms end up there. We were also told that if there are storms, which we’ve had a lot this winter, the likelihood of separation is higher, so it’s a busy time for the center.
These are the baby elephant seals. In the center right now, over half the patients are baby elephant seals. When the seals are separated from mom too early, they don’t yet know how to get food and come into the center severely malnourished. The center rehabilitates the seals, and when they are healthy again, releases them into the wild. Elephant seals were nearly hunted to extinction; after whale numbers dropped drastically in the early 1900’s, hunters then turned to elephant seals for the blubber to make lamp oil. It’s estimated numbers were down to 100 animals living off the coast of Guadalupe Island in Mexico. Numbers now on the west coast are at 150,000.
Volunteers at the center told us that baby elephant seal vocalizations are the sounds of the orcs in Lord of the Rings, and the sounds of the dragons in How to Train your Dragon. Their barks are a combination of a sharp bark and a sort of eerie whine. They are also very loud!
The center has an adopt a seal program, in which you can (symbolically) adopt a baby seal. Some of the seals eat up to 1,000 pounds of fish per day!
We took a small hike down to the beach and on the way found a whale skeleton. The bones were laid out in the size and shape of the whale.
Here is a closeup of the baleen at the head.
Marin Headlands are a beautiful place to hike and I loved seeing the baby seals, so if you ever get a chance, definitely a great place to visit!