POINT REYES NATIONAL SEASHORE, Calif. AP - An unexpected influx of elephant seals has restricted access to a beach at Point Reyes National Seashore northwest of San Francisco.
The National Park Service closed entry to the Drakes Beach area this week after storms and high tides brought 200 elephant seals ashore, making it unsafe to walk from the parking lot to the beach.
The only exception to the closure is between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekends and federal holidays when park staffers are present.
A colony of elephant seals took over Drake's Beach during the government shutdown in January, when there was no staff to discourage the animals from congregating in the popular tourist area, an official said.
About 50 adult seals that had birthed 40 pups took over the beach, knocking down a fence and moving into the parking lot.
Massive elephant seals spend most of their time at sea. Males range from 14 to 16 feet long and weigh up to 5,000 pounds. Females average 10 to 12 feet in length and weigh up to 2,000 pounds.