Northern Elephant Seals at Año Nuevo State Park

Elephant seals are pinnipeds (carnivorous marine mammals with fin-like limbs) with 2 known living species: northern (Mirounga angustirostris) and southern (Mirounga leonina). They have pronounced sexual dimorphism, meaning the differences between male and female seals become noticeable as they mature.


Northern Elephant Seals spend months at sea searching for food, and only come ashore 3 times a year: for breeding season in winter (from mid-December to March), molting season in summer (between March and July) and juvenile period in autumn (late September to November).


Due to their short front flippers and fully webbed hind flippers that cannot rotate forward, Northern Elephant Seals can only move on the ground by dragging their body. In the water, however, the front flippers act as rudders while the hind flippers help propel them forward. The Año Nuevo State Park in California has established one of the world’s largest natural preserves for northern elephant seals.