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Harbor seal pupping season will close a portion of Point Reyes National Seashore

February 24, 2010 | 11:01 am

Evelyn Weimann of Germany witnesses a harbor seal poke its head through a kelp forest.

Ocean-sports enthusiasts visiting California's Point Reyes National Seashore will need to make certain to stay away from Drakes Estero from March 1 through the end of June.

It's pup-birthing season for harbor seals, and that area of the park is popular with the animals. They must not be disturbed during this sensitive time of year.

The National Park Service requests that park visitors -- including ocean kayakers, surfers, abalone divers and recreational anglers -- avoid disturbing seals to ensure a successful pupping season.

Maps indicating specific area closures are available at the park's three visitor centers.

Point Reyes, located about 30 miles north of San Francisco on Highway 1, has the second-largest population of harbor seals in California, with 20% of the state’s harbor seals living or breeding within the park’s boundaries. (Channel Islands has the largest.)

A harbor seal and her pup lounge in a rookery. The pinnipeds are shy animals whose habits are easily disrupted by the presence of humans on land. Because of this, park visitors are asked to stay at least 100 yards away from them.

The seals are also protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, making it unlawful to disturb them while they are onshore.

Visitors should never pick up a seal pup they think may have been abandoned. Mother seals often leave their newborn pups while hunting for food and usually return within 24 hours.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photos: At top, a harbor seal pokes its head above water as Evelyn Weimann of Germany paddles by. Credit: Bob Chamberlin  / Los Angeles Times. Bottom: A harbor seal and her pup lounge in a rookery. Credit: Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles Times

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