A friend and colleague was interested in a tour focused on finding and photographing wildlife in West Marin. We drove around to some of the most iconic spots and were not disappointed with what the park had to offer. Bobcats and coyotes are regulars around this area but we hoped to find something a little less common like a badger. Little did we know we would be lucky enough to see one of the rarest sightings in the area.
Elephant seal moms and their pups were hanging out on the beach making sounds that often resemble loud belches. You can see they are molting, losing their old fur, and we could even see the fur littered around the ground. The male elephant seals will come to molt later in the season on these same beaches.
I always find I get a rush of adrenaline after having an intimate experience with animals in the wild. Every detail from listening to the deep guttural sounds, watching them curl their flipper to scratch their nose, or propelling that gelatinous body all the way from the waters edge over the rocky beach. I could have ended my day a happy camper.
But my favorite thing about this particular friend is that he has the patience and the will to always look around one more bend, or take one more quick detour to see what we can find. So we did just that and headed to the overlook to make sure we weren't missing anything before we leave.
I looked down in disbelief and immediately yelled, "What is that?!". With out a doubt this creature surfaced, rolled on it's back and started cracking a shell against the rock resting on it's belly. As we followed what we now knew to be a Southern Sea Otter we realized there was a whole group. At one point we counted at least four on the surface at once, but there could have been even more!
This observation has now been shared with NOAA's otter specialist group, so they can better understand if the range is naturally expanding, or if this groups movement is related to habitat loss or climate change.