With the reopening of national parks across the country this week, the damages caused during the month-long shutdown have ranged from overflowing toilets to mountains of snow—and now we can add an unmoving herd of elephant seals to the list.

National Parks authorities have been forced to close a portion of beach on the Point Reyes National Seashore near San Francisco due to some thousand California elephant seals that inhabited the beach and its parking lot during the shutdown.

a map of Point Reyes National Seashore highlighting the portion of beach closed for the california elephant seal migration.

Image from the National Park Service

The seals are common in the Bay Area, and are known for moving into beaches by the thousands for breeding purposes. Point Reyes National Seashore regularly hosts spots where California elephant seal colonies visit for mating season. However a confluence of a “king’s tide” forcing the seals north to the popular Drakes Beach, and a lack of employees to push them back down shore lead to the colony taking over much of the beach area, as well as the entire parking lot for visitor access.

As a result of the California elephant seal colony’s migration, staff have shut down public access to the beach to bikers, hikers and drivers. The park was under limited access during the shutdown due to a buildup of human waste on the access road to the shore. Officials at the park are currently looking into ways of reopening the beach without disturbing the animals.

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Kevin Johnson

Kevin Johnson

Kevin is the Assistant Editor for The Dyrt, with bylines in National Geographic Traveler and Atlas Obscura. Although originally from the swamps of Washington, D.C., he's now based in the trees of Portland. He's been interested in geography and travel since seeing his first map as a kid, and is now working toward seeing it all in person. You can find him exploring the coastal beaches or a record store in his free time.