Marine Wildlife Viewing

Let’s talk about the elephant (seal) in the room!
Ellison the Elephant Seal, attracts quite a bit of attention during the summer when he hauls out on baby island. It is super cool to see a seal like him in the wild and many of us have watched him grow over the past 4 or 5  years. Each year he appears more mature with the development of his “proboscis” or nose. Ellisons nose will become his vocal enhancer to threaten other males while competing for a mate.

Northern elephant seals are often found in the North Pacific, ranging from Baja California, Mexico, to the Gulf of Alaska and Aleutian Islands. Their breeding grounds are offshore islands, such as the Channel Islands, Año Nuevo, Point Reyes and Piedras Blancas.

Males have been observed further north toward the Alaskan continental shelf while females feed in the open ocean.

Northern elephant seals aren’t that common in Washington. Individuals are sometimes seen in the Salish Sea with occasional reports of haul outs and even pups on Dungeness Spit and Whidbey, Destruction, Protection, Smith, and Minor Islands.

This summer, please give Ellison some space on Baby island. It is not legal to disturb him on land or prevent him from coming on land. Elephant seals are surprisingly fast for being so big.

Ellison and the other marine mammals are protected under the Marine Mammal Act and harassment of marine mammals is defined ;

(i) has the potential to injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild; or

(ii) has the potential to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild by causing disruption of behavioral patterns, including, but not limited to, migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering.”

There are no “distance” recommendations, i.e. number of feet, that is stated, but basically if you get close enough that it raises its head or opens its eyes, you are disturbing its behavior pattern.  Dogs keeping the animal from coming ashore are not exempt, they are the responsibility of the dogs owners and the dog owner is harassing the animal by not controlling their dog.

Baby island is a very small habitat and when seals or other marine mammals haul out, it is to rest. Please consider this if you want to set foot on the island, instead drift offshore and enjoy this unique island bounding with marine mammals and birds.

If you do see someone harassing marine life please contact NOAA Enforcement 800-853-1964 OR the Marine Mammal Stranding Network at 949-233-2822

More information on Northern Elephant Seals can be found here: