National Park Service

San Francisco Bay Area Network (SFAN)

Harbor & Elephant Seal (Pinnipeds) Monitoring

Bull elephant seal at Point Reyes National Seashore
Bull elephant seal at Point Reyes National Seashore

Monitoring Documents

Parks monitored:

For more information contact: Sarah Codde

Description

Elephant Seals Brief

Elephant seal monitoring at Point Reyes National Seashore resource brief
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Harbor Seals Brief

Harbor seal monitoring at Point Reyes National Seashore and Golden Gate National Recreation Area resource brief
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Hauled-out on sandy safe havens, harbor and elephant seals are monitored in SFAN parks by National Park Service biologists and a large group of dedicated volunteers. The coastlines of Point Reyes National Seashore and Golden Gate National Recreation Area provide excellent habitats for both seals and their prey.

By the late 1800s, northern elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris) had been nearly hunted to extinction. Today, a growing number of elephant seals breed at three sites at Point Reyes National Seashore. Each year during the breeding season, the park monitors these seals to help understand population changes and management needs, and to develop research, interpretation, and enforcement strategies. Monitoring data has been collected at the park for the past 30 years providing valuable information on long-term trends.

Although elephant seals are only in the area for part of the year, harbor seals (Phoca vitulina richardii) remain in the parks year-round and can provide valuable insights into the condition of marine and coastal ecosystems. Boasting an estimated 7,000 individuals, the harbor seal population in Point Reyes National Seashore is the largest concentration in the State of California. However, seals are not immune to diseases, changes in food supply, disturbance to haul-out sites by commercial and recreational use, and environmental changes such as rising sea levels. Harbor seals have been monitored at both parks during the breeding and molting seasons since 1995.

Additional information on pinniped monitoring in SFAN parks may be found on the San Francisco Bay Area National Parks Science and Learning Center webpages for harbor seals and elephant seals.


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Last Updated: December 30, 2016 Contact Webmaster