Sanctuary Integrated Monitoring Network
Monitoring Project

Point Reyes National Seashore Northern Elephant Seal Monitoring

Principal Investigator(s)

  • Sarah Allen
    National Park Service
Start Date: January 01, 1971

As part of a long-term monitoring study of the colony looking at survivorship and dispersal of young, a large number of weaned pups were tagged. Exciting news this year included sightings of elephant seals tagged at Point Reyes as pups, arriving at very distant areas including Kodiak, AK and the Komandorskiye Islands in Russia (3,900 km from Point Reyes).

Every year we receive sighting data from other researchers on elephant seals tagged at Point Reyes but this is the furthest record for a Point Reyes seal and may be for any elephant seal.

Summary to Date

Currently, males, females, pups, weaned pups, and yearlings are censused by Park staff during regular surveys at several breeding sites at Point Reyes. The location and breeding status of tagged or dye-marked seals are monitored throughout the season.

March 2006: Total and weaned pup counts were higher than the 2005 counts. Full summary of counts is available in a PDF download below.

Dec 21, 2002: The birth of two pups at the Drakes Beach colony marks the first year that pups were born at Drakes Beach before the main colony. The main colony has approximately six females, but this beach is severely eroded. If the main colony continues to be eroded, females will move to other areas. Those potential areas include South Beach, Abbotts, Drakes Beach and Limantour where males have shown up in the past. Additionally, South Beach Colony has over twenty males and one female.

Jan 2001:The Northern elephant seal colony did not increase in number this past year at Point Reyes, nor at other colonies such as Ano Nuevo or the Farallon Islands. The reason for the reduction in pupping is likely due to a continued lag effect from the very strong 1998 El Nino. Nevertheless, the winter weather was fairly mild and pup survival was higher than the previous two years at around 80%. The highest count number of pups weaned was 279 and the direct count for the season was 698. Females again gave birth to pups at two new sites at Chimney Rock beach area and at South Beach.

Jan 2000: The highest direct count number of pups weaned was 276 and the direct count for the season was 900.

Monitoring Trends

  • Summaries of trends can be downloaded at the bottom of this page.


For more information about Elephant Seal monitoring at Pt. Reyes National Seashore and to access information about public events, please use the link below.

Study Parameters

  • Habitat
  • Abundance
  • Reproduction
  • Mortality
  • Distribution
  • Density
  • Migration/movement patterns
  • Stock assessment
  • Tagging

Figures and Images

Comparison of total counts between 2005 and 2006. Full PDF download is available below.

Comparison of weaned pup counts between 2005 and 2006. Full PDF download is available below.

The main northern elephant seal colony at Pt. Reyes.

Panoramic shot of the North Drakes Bay colony.

Resting northern elephant seals.

Resting northern elephant seals at the Drakes Bay colony.