Why did the seal cross the road?
It wasn’t to get to the other side.
A juvenile female elephant seal bounded onto Skyline Way early Monday apparently to begin molting, attracting emergency responders who herded her back to the water.
Among those herding the seal into the water: City Animal Control Officer Zabrina Nybo and Erik Schorr of Anacortes Kayak Tours. Schorr said the elephant seal didn’t appear to be distressed by the presence of about 10 onlookers who had gathered, but “she didn’t appreciate the cars going by.”
Schorr said the elephant seal apparently came out of the water at or near the boat ramp and bounded onto the road about 75 yards from the water’s edge, settling down on the roadway in front of Old Salt’s. Had she decided to hunker down for the three-week process of shedding her fur and outer skin layer, getting her to move would have been more difficult, Schorr said.
“I’m glad it wasn’t a male. They get huge — up to 16 feet and 5,000 pounds,” he said. Adult females grow to 10 feet in length and weigh one ton; the Skyline Way elephant seal was about 5 to 6 feet in length, Schorr said.
Elephant seals shed their old fur and outer skin layer each spring to make way for new fur and outer skin. Schorr said molting causes increased blood flow to the surface of the seal’s skin to help supply nutrients to the new fur. Elephant seals fatten up before they begin and fast during the molting process.
“The Marine Mammal Stranding Network advised that this time of the year, elephant seals — this one was a juvenile — come up onto dry land to molt,” Anacortes Police Capt. Dave Floyd said. No one should touch or feed a seal, he warned. “Anyone observing a seal on dry land further up than just on the beach adjacent to the water, or a marine animal that they have any concerns about, should contact the Northwest Marine Mammal Stranding Network at 800-562-8832.”
The Skyline Way elephant seal was back in the water by 9:15 a.m. — hopefully, Schorr said, in search of a safer place to haul out.
Schorr, who has been in the kayaking business for 16 years, said it was the first time he’d seen an elephant seal haul out on a roadway. He said elephant seals are not as numerous as harbor seals and are often seen hauling out on Minor and Smith islands, on the west side of San Juan Island, and on rocks south of Waldron Island.
Schorr echoed what Floyd said about keeping distance from marine mammals.
“In July, moms usually put their seal pups on shore while they go out and forage, and some people think the pups are abandoned,” he said. “It’s tempting to approach them, but you have to rise above that and leave the area. And keep your dog away from areas where there are seal pups.”