An elephant seal tried to cross California’s Highway 37. The 500-pound mammal caused a mile-long blockade in both directions during its numerous attempts to get across.
There was a rather odd scene on North Bay highway in California, as an elephant seal repeatedly attempted to cross the busy highway. The mammal spent most of the afternoon trying to get to the other side, and even allegedly attacked a car during its multiple tries. Incidentally, the mammal hasn’t given up, despite the valiant efforts by rescuers. It has been spotted swimming in an area near the highway and appears determined to take another crack at trying to cross the road.
— Grant Lodes (@GrantLodes) December 29, 2015
Officers with the California Highway Patrol (CHP) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services confirmed that a persistent elephant seal was determined to get the right of way on California’s Highway 37. Authorities in Sonoma County added they are keeping an eye on the stubborn seal that tried to cross the highway several times on Monday. At one point, the seal was in the median, with cars stopped around it.
We are still on scene SR 37 E/ of SR 121 with a sea lion that wants no part of us. Rdwy clear but traffic is heavy pic.twitter.com/q2VfypMQI4
— CHP Marin (@CHPMarin) December 28, 2015
Though the seal appeared non-threatening, it did allegedly attack a vehicle that may have come a little too close to the mammal. Concerned motorists who slowed down and later stopped to ensure the seal was ok caused a huge traffic jam for more than a mile in both directions on Highway 37, reported ABC 13 Eyewitness News. By 11 p.m., the seal lay beached in the mud, but wasn’t far from the highway.
With the sun setting and he tide dropping our elephant seal adventure continues. Hoping she returns to open water. pic.twitter.com/r3Y5j36vod
— CHP Marin (@CHPMarin) December 29, 2015
Locals reported the seal appeared distressed and may have been exhausted after its many attempts at crossing the highway. After laying there for some time, the seal slowly rolled back into the San Pablo Bay. Some observers added that though the seal did enter the waters, it didn’t move out further into the sea. Instead, it was seen swimming cautiously near the highway, as if planning the next day’s strategy.
— Mike McGuire (@ilike_mike) December 29, 2015
The first reports of a large elephant seal attempting to cross the highway began arriving at around 1 p.m., reported the San Francisco Chronicle. The reports sounded surreal as the complaints mentioned a large seal was blocking traffic on Highway 37 near Sears Point in Sonoma County. One caller informed CHP that the seal was attacking a car.
A seal is blocking the left lane on EB Hwy 37 after Sears Point. #CHP says the seal was attacking a vehicle. You can't make this stuff up.
— Carolyn Copeland (@Carolyn_Copes) December 28, 2015
When the CHP responded to the scene, the elephant seal was already very agitated. CHP Officer Andrew Barclay shared he received a face-full of hot breath and saliva while trying corral the extremely irritated mammal back into the sea.
“She was very large, very determined. The elephant seal had a lot of weight behind her and a lot of muscle. So she was moving us pretty easily, a lot of force.”
Though the CHP did succeed to get the seal back into the water on several occasions, the mammal would make a play for the highway again, he added.
“She’s back in the water now. But she seems very committed to crossing the roadway. Every time we get her in the water she waits until we walk away and she’s right back up on land. What we’ve seen is she’s obviously still trying to get out of the water. She’s very adamant she’s going to cross this stretch of roadway.”
The CHP has warned that if the mammal tries to charge across the thoroughfare again, it will be forced to shut down the two-lane highway, reported Fox News. Before giving up, the seal made three more attempts to cross the highway. Currently, there are two rescue teams, one from the Marine Mammal Center of Sausalito and another from San Pablo Bay National Marine Sanctuary, trying to bring the situation under control.
We've been asked a lot today why not just let the elephant seal cross the road. Answer:there is no water or outlet to the bay north of SR 37
— CHP Marin (@CHPMarin) December 29, 2015
An expert indicated that the female seal, possibly pregnant, might have been trying to get to the dry field on the other side to give birth, reported WREG.
[Photo by California Highway Patrol]