After several failed attempts to redirect a pregnant elephant seal away from state Highway 37, wildlife officials have sedated the animal and loaded it onto a truck bound for an established elephant seal colony at Chimney Rock on the Point Reyes National Seashore.
Veterinarians confirmed that the seal is healthy and in good condition. Using a blood test and an ultrasound they also confirmed that she’s pregnant, according to the Marine Mammal Center.
Center officials spent the morning attempting to nudge the adult female seal away from Tolay Creek back toward San Pablo Bay and the open ocean beyond using a kayak and noisemakers, but the animal resisted their efforts.
It was quite an undertaking, however. The area around the creek is muddy and the seal, which wildlife officials described as healthy and in good condition, weighs in at an estimated 900 pounds.
The seal was initially reported at about 1:15 p.m. Monday blocking traffic in the eastbound lane of Highway 37 near Sears Point and state Highway 121, according to California Highway Patrol Officer Andrew Barclay.
The “very large, very determined” seal was trying to climb over the center divider, and passersby who tried to stop and help her reported that she attacked their vehicle, Barclay said.
CHP, U.S. Fish and Wildlife and Marine Mammal Center staff were able to herd the seal off the road but she made repeated attempts to return and efforts to steer her to a different waterway were unsuccessful.
Wildlife officials monitored her overnight while she slept, and as of this morning she was back in the water, swimming around.
Barbie Halaska, a research assistant with the Marin County-based Marine Mammal Center, said it was unclear why the seal was trying to cross the road – but that such behavior could be driven by the animal’s pregnancy.
Elephant seals tend to give birth this time of year, in December or January, according to Marine Mammal Center Officials.