On Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022, a large elephant seal – most likely the same one that we’ve posted about before – made a visit to Burien’s Three Tree Point shoreline.
This was likely the same very large Northern elephant seal that’s been hanging around the Burien-Des Moines area. Males can weigh in at over 2 tons and reach as much as 16-feet in length. They dive to nearly a mile depth and can stay underwater for nearly two hours.
Some eyewitness accounts to this recent visit indicate that this creature may be molting, which can make them look ill or even dead when they lie still on the beach or near the shore. Experts warn residents to please keep their dogs away and to not bother them.
Below is a video courtesy Alexandra Manuel, showing the animal on its back at the shoreline:
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.”
Resident Ethan Janson captured this great closeup video of the huge creature, whose presence he was alerted to by his barking dog.
“…dog barking alerted me to something out back, then I heard the snorting,” Janson said. “No way was my puppy gonna listen to me then!”