Why Did the Elephant Seal Cross the Road?

Elephant Seal Crossing (California Hwy Patrol / Associated Press)
California Hwy Patrol / Associated Press

On Monday afternoon, an elephant seal weighing up to 1,000 pounds climbed out of San Pablo Bay in Sonoma County, then slid its way toward Highway 37, repeatedly trying to cross it before finally stopping on the shoulder.

The unusual sight stopped traffic on both sides of the highway for over a mile in both directions. After being returned to the estuary, the seal tried three more times to leave the water and gain a foothold on dry land. Barbie Halaska from the Marine Mammal Center told ABC 7 that the seal may be about to give birth, saying, “If she is about to give birth that means she is in her prime. So she’s got a lot of weight, she’s got a lot of strength on her, she could tear the board away from your hands if you don’t hold it the proper way.”

Efforts to return the seal to the water were launched by The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, the San Pablo National Marine Sanctuary, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

By 5 p.m. the seal was still looking to exit the water, getting closer and closer to the highway; by 7 p.m., with the seal back in the water, the CHP stopped tracking the pinniped, although Marine Mammal Center staffers were prepared to stay on call all night. Some were hiding nearby with a crate in case the seal made another effort at getting on land, but with the tide going out, that effort would be more difficult.

Vivian Ho of the Chronicle even gave the seal a name:


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