SAN FRANCISCO — While the rest of the country was busy worrying about the government shutdown, a colony of elephant seals waddled onto a Northern California beach and snuggled on the sand.
And they’re in no rush to leave.
With no government workers to shoo them away, the roughly 60 seals toppled a fence and made Drakes Beach their new home. After the government shutdown ended and parks reopened, officials temporarily blocked the beach access road and are urging locals to stay away from the area to avoid making the seals anxious.
Drakes Beach is part of the National Park Service’s Point Reyes National Seashore north of San Francisco.
“I’ve not seen anything like this here with these numbers,” spokesman John Dell’Osso of the National Park Service told CNN affiliate KPIX. “An occasional rogue elephant seal, yes, but nothing like this.”
They’ve not only made themselves at home, they’ve brought a bunch of new seals into the world.
“Now we have some 35 to 40 pups that have been born on the beach and will be nursing from their mothers for the next couple of months,” he said. “I just want to caution the public to be patient with us, as we’re trying to work our way through this.”
Elephant seals come ashore each year to give birth, breed and molt.
In the early 1900s, elephant seals were hunted for their oil-rich blubber and were on the verge of extinction with about 1,000 left.
Under government protection over the years, they have since made a comeback and are now estimated to be 150,000 worldwide, according to the National Park Service.
The 35-day shutdown led to limited access to Point Reyes National Seashore because of human waste and safety concerns.