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Nothern sea elephant picture and information, Elephant seal (Mirounga augustirostris)


Nothern sea elephant picture and information, Elephant seal (Mirounga augustirostris)Sea-elephants are the largest and among the most remarkable of the seals. Two species are known-one from islands on the borders of the Antarctic Ocean and the other from the Pacific coast of Upper and Lower California. The northern species formerly existed in vast numbers along the coast and among outlying islands from Point Reyes, north of San Francisco, south to Cedros Island, but is now reduced to a single small herd living about Gttadalupe Island, off Lower California.

The old males attain a length of 22 feet or more and are huge, ungainly beasts, moving with difficulty on land, but with ease and grace in the water. The name sea-elephant is obviously derived from the broad flexible snout of the males, which, when relaxed, hangs 6 or 8 inches below the muzzle. This curious proboscis can be moved about and raised vertically, giving the animal a strange appearance. The males have a loud roar like the bellowing of an ox.

The breeding season extends from February to June, and during this period these seals are far more numerous on shore than at any other time. They are gregarious in habits and formerly hauled up in herds an the islands or on remote and inaccessible beaches of the main-land. On shore they are sluggish, having none of the alertness shown by many other seals. They lie supine on the sand and permit a man to walk quietly up and touch them without showing signs of fear. When attacked by sealers or otherwise alarmed, however, they become panic-stricken and make ungainly efforts to escape, but quickly become exhausted by the exertion necessary to move their great bodies. Their only natural enemy appears to be the killer whale.

Between 1855 and 1870 the great numbers of northern sea-elephants, combined with their helplessness on shore and the value of their oil, attracted numerous sealing and whaling ships to the coast of Lower California. The resulting slaughter reduced these animals from swarming abundance to a few scattered herds. Since then their numbers have steadily decreased, and there is a serious probability that these strange and interesting habitants of the sea will soon disappear forever.

The small remaining herd on Guadalupe Island is without protection and lies at the mercy of wanton hunters. The people of the coastal towns of California should exert themselves to discourage hunters from killing these seals, since the only hope for the preservation of this noteworthy species lies in an awakened public sentiment in its favor. Even within recent years they have occasionally visited the Santa Barbara Islands, California, and if the existing survivors can be saved they may again become resident there.