The arrival of thousands of elephant seals this season does not come as a surprise to residents of the San Luis Obispo County cities of Cambria and San Simeon.
The annual ritual is part of mating season, which begins in November and concludes in March, according to the California Department of Parks and Recreation. The number of these loud seals on the shores of San Simeon can reach as high as 17,000 during their migration.
The peak of mating for elephant seals is around Valentine’s Day. Females will begin leaving and in March, the rest of the adult seals find their way home as the newly born pups learn to swim and fend for themselves, according to Cambria Tourism.
With this massive influx of seals, displacement of the animals has become an issue. A video of an elephant seal hanging out on the freeway near San Simeon has even garnered national attention through BuzzFeed. In the video, local sheriffs can be seen waving at and ushering the uninterested seals out of harm’s way.
The mating spectacle is most commonly viewed at the Hearst-San Simeon State Park, where the seal lookout point is located approximately five miles north of Hearst Castle.
The seals, reaching up to 16 feet in length, put on a show during the mating season. Elaborate sounds and aggressive fights take place as the males battle for female affection. It is free to watch so long as you do not feed or provoke the elephant seals.