An unexpected influx of elephant seals has restricted access to a beach at Point Reyes National Seashore northwest of San Francisco.
The National Park Service closed entry to the Drakes Beach area this week after storms and high tides brought 200 elephant seals ashore, making it unsafe to walk from the parking lot to the beach.
The only exception to the closure is on weekends and federal holidays between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. when park staffers are present.
The massive elephant seals spend most of their time at sea.
Adult males range from 14 to 16 feet long and weigh up to 5,000 pounds. Females average 10 to 12 feet long and weigh up to 2,000 pounds.
This is the second time in three months that the massive mammals have closed parts of Drakes Beach. A colony of elephant seals took over the shore in January during the partial federal government shutdown, when park staff who who usually shoo the animals away from the beach to reduce possibly dangerous human-seal encounters were on furlough.
A month later, the giant pinnipeds were still making themselves at home. Visitors got to see about 45 nursing pups and their mothers lounging on the beach, and at least instance of a large bull elephant seal mating with a female in the parking lot.
Times staff writer Javier Panzar contributed to this report.