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Molting Elephant Seal Found on Oregon Coast - Painful Process There and at Washington Coast

Published 04/28/2020 at 5:54 PM PDT - Updated 04/28/2020 at 5:55 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Molting Elephant Seal Found on Oregon Coast - Painful Process There and at Washington Coast

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(Seaside, Oregon) - Every spring, molting season comes around for elephant seals along the Washington and Oregon coasts, and it’s never pretty. (All photos courtesy Seaside Aquarium)

It is, however, a necessary part of these creatures’ lives and humans should not interfere. It’s the same idea that goes with those adorable seal pups you find on the beaches by themselves: leave them alone.

Luckily, there’s no one on the beaches these days, so when Seaside Aquarium’s Tiffany Boothe – part of the Marine Mammal Stranding Network – came across a juvenile elephant seal in great discomfort, she knew there was nothing to worry about.

The discovery was made Monday, she said.

“Someone is defying the closure of Seaside beach,” she joked.

“With the beach so quiet this young elephant seal thought it would be a good place to rest and begin its first molt,” Boothe said. “We will be keeping a close eye on this guy while he uses Seaside's peaceful beach.”

“Please remember that the beach is closed and this guy needs his rest. He is also not accepting visitors.” She ended that last statement with a smile emoji.

Molting is something elephant seal go through when they’re young, and it’s rather painful.

“Young elephant seals use the beach while they molt, a process where the seal loses all of its fur and re-grows a new coat,” Boothe said. “Salt water would irritate the sores that they get during their molt, so they choose to haul out of the water.”

Coming up onto to beach raises the body temperature of the molting seal, helping the molting process go by more quickly, she said. The ordeal takes weeks.

All this and the increasing occurrences of baby seals on the beaches will continue throughout summer, which gives the little ones some breathing room for awhile. It’s not likely beaches will be open before early June, and then likely not all beaches all at once. Oregon coast towns could be flooded with people by mid summer and that means extra caution when it comes to finding baby seals and molting elephant seals.

Seaside Aquarium manager Kieth Chandler urged everyone to keep away from any of these creatures, and said there are various reasons for concern in a situation involving people and animals washing up.

“We’re always concerned for their safety,” Chandler said. “They may be slow, not feeling well and lethargic, but they can still deliver a powerful bite and injure a person. There’s also the worry about dogs. They can get sick from coming into contact with an elephant seal.” More elephant seal photos below from previous years:

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