Three Tree Point resident Fred Feiertag took some great photos of a large visitor – an elephant seal he spotted off the shores of Burien on Monday, July 18, 2022.
“Big visitor today,” Feiertag said. “First time sighting of an elephant seal by my seawall. Rare in the Three Tree Point neighborhood and Puget Sound in general.”
This one was likely a Northern elephant seal, which are very big creatures, with males weighing over 2 tons and reaching as much as 16-feet long.
They dive to nearly a mile depth and can stay underwater for nearly two hours.
According to West Seattle-based nonprofit The Whale Trail:
“Northern elephant seals are the largest of the ‘true’, or ‘earless’, seals in all of the Northern Hemisphere. The have a large range in the Pacific Ocean and can be seen from Alaska to Mexico. Northern elephant seals spend most of the year, about 9 months, in the ocean and can only be seen on land during pupping season. In Washington, it is rare to see them ashore. The population estimate for the California stock of Northern elephant seals is around 180,000. With over a 13,000 mile roundtrip migrations, they have one of the longest migrations of any animals.
“Northern elephant seals can be seen at sea while they are at the surface between their long dives. They have been known to look like deadheads, or logs, in the ocean sort of bouncing up and down a couple times and then disappearing. Mature males are easily identified by their large proboscis.
“April through August, elephant seals return to beaches to shed their skin, or molt. In Washington, adult females can be in their feeding areas of Washington and Oregon, during their time between spring/summer molting and winter breeding season. September-November is a good time to see them from shore.”
“Made my day, I hope he is fish filled and happy,” Feiertag added.
It’s possible this is the very same elephant seal spotted at the mouth of Des Moines Creek on June 3, 2021 – see The Waterland Blog’s story and photos here.
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