California Beach Can't Reopen After Government Shutdown Because Elephant Seals Took It Over

A Northern California beach is unable to be reopened after it was closed due to the partial government shutdown, because it has been overrun with elephant seals.

While trash was piling up in national parks throughout America during the government shutdown, Drakes Beach experienced a different problem: a complete takeover by a colony of elephant seals.

"I've not seen anything like this here with these numbers," John Dell'Osso, the chief of interpretation and resource education for the seashore, told the San Francisco Bay Area CBS. "An occasional rogue elephant seal, yes, but nothing like this."

Point Reyes National Seashore is home to around 1,500 elephant seals that typically frequent Chimney Beach, which features 100-foot-cliffs that keep them hidden from the general public. But during the shutdown, the colony moved from its usual spot to an area at Drakes Beach, usually populated with tourists, by knocking down a fence.

After the park reopened on Sunday, staffers were forced to close the access road and the Kenneth C. Patrick Visitor Center due to the seals having occupied the land, including a nearby parking spot. According to SF Gate, the incident was caused by strong storms and high tides that limited the area available for adult seals looking to give birth.

"Now we have some 35 to 40 pups that have been born on the beach and will be nursing from their mothers for the next couple of months," Dell'Osso said. "I just want to caution the public to be patient with us, as were trying to work our way through this."

The lack of staff present in the area during the shutdown was also said to have caused the seals' relocation. "Sometimes you go out with tarps and you shake the tarps and it annoys them and they move the other direction," Dell'Osso said. "It doesn't scare them, and it's a standard technique used with elephant seals. This would have kept them farther away from tourists."

Although Dell'Osso hasn't indicated exactly when the beach would be reopened to the public, he announced they may soon offer guided visits for tourists who want to see the elephant seal colony—but made clear that it would be designed in a way that would avoid disturbing them.

Elephant seals occupy Piedras Blancas beach, near Carmel, California, on December 25, 2006. A Northern California beach has been overrun by elephant seals after it was closed due to the government shutdown. Getty/Gabriel Bouys