February 04, 2022
Northern elephant seal born at Deception Pass
State Parks closes parts of Bowman Bay to protect the new pup
OLYMPIA – Feb. 4, 2022 – Washington State Parks announces the birth of a new northern elephant seal at Deception Pass State Park.
The birth took place on Jan. 31 at Bowman Bay in the park. The pup's mother is one of a small family of elephant seals that visits Whidbey and Fidalgo islands frequently and is well known to residents. This is her first pup.
Staff at Deception Pass have closed the Bowman Bay boat launch to all visitors. They have closed the day-use area at Bowman Bay to pets. Visitors hiking the Rosario Head/Lighthouse loop will find temporary detours around the area. These measures will give the pup room to nurse, lower its chances of imprinting on humans and preserve its habitat until it is weaned.
Northern elephant seals spend most of their time at sea feeding on squid, dogfish, or sharks. They make two migrations each year and come ashore to birth, breed or molt.
Elephant seal pups nurse for 24 to 28 days. They weigh 30 to 80 lb at birth and quadruple their weight in a month. For each pound the pup gains, the mother loses two. The mother leaves once the pup is weaned, though the pup may take another two weeks to swim or dive.
Parks Stewardship Program Manager Lisa Lantz emphasizes that a pup found alone on the beach is not necessarily in distress.
“The mother may be coming back, or the pup may have become independent,” said Lantz. “The key is not to ascribe human qualities to a wild animal.”
If a seal pup looks sick, she advises visitors to tell park staff or call the West Coast Marine Stranding Network at 1-866-767-6114.
Lantz reminds visitors that it is illegal to disturb marine mammals, which means staying at least 50 yards away. Northern elephant seals are a federally protected species.
Even from 50 yards away with closures in effect, park staff predict enthusiasm for the pup.
“It's going to be hard to reduce the excitement,” said Parks Interpreter Joy Kacoroski. “We're expecting crowds this weekend.”
About Washington State Parks
The Washington State Park Commission manages more than 100 state parks and properties totaling approximately 120,000 acres. The Commission provides a variety of recreation opportunities for citizens and provides stewardship protection for a diverse array of natural, cultural and historic resources. State Parks’ statewide programs include long-distance trails, boating safety and winter recreation.