Elephant seal that tried to cross California highway is now a mom

 

Last week, she was just a 900-pound gal on a caper.

Now, she’s a mom.

The nearly half-ton female elephant seal that gained notoriety last week when she tried to cross a busy Sonoma County highway and defied numerous attempts to shepherd her back into the water gave birth to a pup Saturday, the Point Reyes National Seashore said.

A park volunteer was watching the seal from an overlook at Chimney Rock on Saturday morning when he saw the pup next to her. She was reportedly looking “happy and healthy,” park officials said.

On Dec. 28, the elephant seal — nicknamed Tolay after a nearby creek — repeatedly tried to cross Highway 37 near Sears Point, causing a major traffic jam as she tried to climb over the dividing wall. Drivers stopped to take photos of her escapade, further snarling traffic.

 

 

Would-be rescuers with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the California Highway Patrol and the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito tried to coax Tolay back into the water, “but instead of swimming toward the bay, the persistent seal kept hauling out and moving toward the highway,” the Marine Mammal Center said in a statement.

Authorities monitored the seal throughout the night to make sure she did not get back into traffic. Before daybreak Dec. 29, two Marine Mammal Center rescuers in a kayak tried to push her from the shore to open waters, using air horns, but she wouldn’t go.

By that afternoon, a Marine Mammal Center veterinarian was able to sedate the seal. It took 12 people to lift the seal onto a tarp, which was used to lift her onto a truck that took her to Point Reyes, the site of an established elephant seal rookery.

Tolay was examined by veterinarians, who used blood samples and an ultrasound to confirm that she was pregnant.

An identification tag was attached to her flipper so researchers can identify her if she gets into trouble again, according to the Marine Mammal Center.

Laura Sherr, a spokeswoman for the center, said in an interview that it is rare for elephant seals to make such escapes or to be found in odd places. It’s unknown, she said, why the seal tried to cross the highway.

“It’s really impossible for us to get into the minds of these animals,” she said. “They’re going to do what they’re going to do. We just try to keep them safe and the public safe.”

The seal was in good shape, Sherr said. She will look noticeably thinner in the coming weeks as she nurses her pup and could lose up to a third of her body weight in the process.

Female elephant seals, Sherr said, nurse their young for about 28 days before leaving the pups to find their own way in the world.

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