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Be a guide 

Get to know the seals and tourists, too

They travel miles and miles every year to visit the Central Coast. They lounge on our beaches, refuse our food, and pick fights. They even mate in public. Funny thing is, we never get offended. We don’t even shelter our eyes from their antics. Instead, we gather round to watch! We revel, astounded, in the majesty and mystery that is the great northern elephant seal.

And we’re not the only ones. Tourists from around the globe make a point of frequenting the Piedras Blancas elephant seal

click to enlarge MEET MR. ALPHA :  A bull elephant seal calls his harem
  • MEET MR. ALPHA : A bull elephant seal calls his harem
rookery to get a glimpse of the fascinating creatures, which make their part-time home on the southern Big Sur coast. Of particular interest to observers is the breeding season, which occurs from late November through mid-February, and hosts the largest number of seals and the most activity.

The protruding proboscises and two-ton blubbery bodies of adult male seals are perhaps exceeded in character by the permanent grins and big brown eyes of newborn pups, but no visual stimulus compares to the earth-shattering vocalizations that precede dominance fights between bulls. Their volume is seldom matched by the exclamations from the surrounding human crowd, unrestrained as those may be. To say the rookery is noisy, or even hectic, during breeding season is an understatement. Chaotic is more like it.

 

Which is why Friends of the Elephant Seal, an 11-year-old, nonprofit organization that provides docents for the Piedras Blancas rookery, is encouraging hearty community members to apply for positions as volunteer docents for the 2008/2009 season. Applicants should enjoy spending time outdoors and be able to endure “mostly gorgeous, but sometimes cold and windy” weather. The ideal docent is comfortable talking with people, and is wild about elephant seals and Piedras Blancas.

New docents will be educated about the lives of elephant seals, as well as otters, whales, dolphins, and seal lions. In addition, docents will participate in on-site training with mentors. Upon graduation, docents will receive Friends of the Elephant Seal blue jackets and nametags, and will be scheduled to volunteer either at the Piedras Blancas rookery or in the Friends of the Elephant Seal office in San Simeon, depending on personal preference. Schedules are flexible.

Applicants are currently being interviewed, with final applications due by Sept. 20. New docents will attend training sessions held on Oct. 4 and 18, and Nov. 1, in San Simeon. To apply for a position as a volunteer docent, contact Friends of the Elephant Seal at 924-1628, or visit the organization's website at elephantseal

.org. To simply enjoy the wonder that is a northern elephant seal, visit the Piedras Blancas elephant seal rookery on Highway 1, 12 miles north of Cambria and four miles north of the Hearst Castle entrance.


Intern Carrie Covell compiled this week’s Strokes and Plugs. Send your business news to strokes@newtimesslo.com.

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