Wayward elephant seal released, in good condition at Point Reyes

(KRON) — After several failed attempts to guide a disoriented pregnant elephant seal away from state Highway 37 toward open water, the animal was safely relocated to Point Reyes National Seashore Tuesday evening and appeared to be recovering well, Marine Mammal Center officials said today.

Wildlife officials captured the seal, dubbed “Tolay,” Tuesday after sedating it then driving it out to Chimney Rock at Point Reyes. She was released on the edge of an established elephant seal breeding colony at Point Reyes, near another mother seal and her two-day old pup, Marine Mammal Center spokeswoman Laura Sherr said.

The 900-pound, female seal was first seen around 1:15 p.m. Monday stopping traffic as it repeatedly tried to cross Hwy 37 near Sears Point and Hwy 121 in Sonoma County, according to California Highway Patrol.

The “very large, very determined” seal was trying to climb over the center divider. When a driver tried to stop and help, she reportedly attacked their vehicle, CHP officials said.

CHP, U.S. Fish and Wildlife and Marine Mammal Center staff were able to herd the seal off the road but she made repeated attempts to return.

Wildlife officials monitored her overnight while she slept, and returned Tuesday morning to find her back in the water, swimming around. The mammal tried to steer her through a waterway back to the bay using a kayak but the efforts were unsuccessful.

Officials used ultrasound and found that the seal was healthy and pregnant. Wildlife experts say the seal could be trying to find a place to give birth.

Elephant seals usually give birth in December and January, according to officials.

Barbie Halaska, a research assistant with the Marin County-based Marine Mammal Center, said it is unclear why the seal is trying to cross the road in an area far from where elephant seals usually go.

“I think she’s just gotten a little bit disoriented,” Halaska said. “We’re not quite sure why she’s up here, she should be outside on the ocean side in the Point Reyes or Ano Nuevo areas.”

Information from Bay City News was used in this report.

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