California Monterey Peninsula photography wildlife

My Monterey: April is seal pupping month, keep off their beaches

Loyalty Traveler is about enjoying life. Even more enjoyable than finding hotel discounts this week for my upcoming road trip from Jacksonville, Florida to Norfolk, Virginia have been the hours I spent on a beach cliff at Point Lobos Whalers Cove. Standing 20 feet above a sandy beach covered with 50 to 60 harbor seals, half of them seal pups born this April and as recently as two days ago, has provided me great viewing pleasure into nature’s way.



Whalers Cove, Point Lobos State Preserve, Carmel, California

Whalers Cove in Point Lobos State Preserve, six miles south of my home in Monterey, is just one beach of many locations along the California coast where the nearly 40,000 strong Pacific harbor seal population is growing with new seal pups. April is the month when most harbor seal births happen in the central coast region of California.

Point Lobos Whalers Cove harbor seals-1

Point Lobos State Preserve, California – Pacific harbor seals and pups.

Harbor seals seem like docile animals. Perhaps it is due to their relative silence compared to other marine mammals. California sea lions bark loud enough for me to hear from my home a mile from the sea. Harbor seals rarely vocalize.

Pupping season is the exception when there are a few pups who grunt, begging to be fed, filling the beach with seal sound.

Point Lobos seals-2

The past two days at Point Lobos there have been tourists to the park who tried to approach the seals. The park receives many international visitors. A teenager on vacation with his family from Europe went onto the beach two days ago and the entire beach cleared of seals who fled into the ocean water of Whalers Cove. The police were called.

Disturbing harbor seals during the pupping season from March to June is a federal crime. There were no seals on the beach for an hour after the incident. Harbor seals are wild animals and always alert to potential deadly situations. The scattering of seal moms and pups into the sea sometimes results in abandoned pups on the beach.

Seal pup-1

Young seal is first to return to the beach one hour after a scare from human intruder.

Harbor seal pups feed on their mother’s milk and for several weeks after birth stay close to mom until they are weaned in about 30 days. Harbor seals are born on land and weigh 20 to 25 pounds. They can swim from birth. After about one month, the seal pup weighs about 50 pounds and mom goes off to replenish her body weight leaving the pup is on its own to feed itself and go its own way in life.

A park docent told me about one seal pup who immediately headed to the ocean within minutes of being born last week. Mom had to chase after him.

seal and pup

Harbor seal mom and seal pup at Point Lobos.

Yesterday, I was in the park and two American teenagers were climbing down the rocks with the intent to pet a harbor seal. They were stopped by a park docent before reaching the beach.

Seal pups-3

These two harbor seal pups are not related. Moms only care for their own seal pup. The seal pup farthest left was separated from its mom when the seals scattered Wednesday due to the teenager on the beach. Mom growls and uses her front flipper to swat the motherless pup away.

Seal pups-4

Seal pup crawls along the beach to lay near another seal. Apparently harbor seals do not like to touch each other, which is unlike the behavior of California sea lions who crowd together, often laying on and climbing over each other on coastal rocks.

Eventually the hungry seal pup waddled across the sand back to the mother and pup, nosing around trying to get milk.

Seal mom bite

Harbor seal mom’s aggression to drive away a motherless seal pup.

Ten minutes later this pup was trying to steal milk from another mother and she also snapped at the pup.

Come visit coastal California and enjoy observing the Pacific harbor seals during pupping season. But, please keep your distance at least 50 yards and keep quiet so not to frighten the seals.

A motherless seal pup is a sad thing to see.

Seal pup 5

Odd pup out.

Seals -6

Even pairings and a couple of feedings make a better harbor seal pupping beach scene.

Harbor seals tend to stay within about five miles of the beach where they were born. Harbor seals can live to be 25 to 30 years old. These pups will be on their own in less than a month to face the challenges of survival including sharks and orcas outside the cove.

Whalers Cove

Whalers Cove, Point Lobos State Reserve, Carmel, California

The beach where I photographed these seals is across from Whalers Cabin, an 1851 cabin built by Chinese fishermen. Whalers Cove was a whaling station in the 1870s. I wrote an article about the whaling history of Point Lobos in June 2014.


Ric Garrido of Monterey, California is writer and owner of Loyalty Traveler.

Loyalty Traveler shares news and views on hotels, hotel loyalty programs and vacation destinations for frequent guests.

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  • Fishing4Deals April 25, 2014

    Fantastic! These are beautiful pictures.

  • Andy April 25, 2014

    Nice to see a blogger mixing it up and including conservation education at that. Good post Ric, well done!

  • Kim April 26, 2014

    Great post Ric. Thank you.

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