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Researchers: Elephant seals travel farther than once thought

January 19, 2015

PESCADERO, Calif. (AP) — Researchers tracking elephant seals off the Northern California coast say they have discovered the animals travel much farther than once thought.

The University of California, Santa Cruz researchers last year found two elephant seals had crossed the international dateline, putting them closer to Russia than the United States, Patrick Robinson with UC Santa Cruz’s Ano Nuevo Natural Reserve, told the San Jose Mercury News (http://bit.ly/1DVfOcP ) in a story on Sunday.

Male elephant seals spend much of their time in the northern Pacific, off the coast of Alaska and the Aleutian Islands. Females tend to hunt in the northeast Pacific.

They return to Ano Nuevo in San Mateo County and other spots on the California coast each winter to breed.

“We’re trying to figure out what these animals are doing at sea,” Robinson said.

Researchers in collaboration with the U.S. Office of Naval Research and people in Japan tagged elephant seals recently and used miniature cameras to see what type of fish and squid they were eating.

“Their home is really the ocean,” said Terry Kiser, supervising ranger at Ano Nuevo State Park. “They spend 90 percent of their lives in the ocean.”

The seals, thought to have nearly gone extinct in the late 1800s, now number around 225,000 to 230,000.

Mature males can grow up to 16 feet long and weigh 5,400 pounds. Females can be as long as 10 feet and weigh 1,500 pounds.

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Information from: San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News, http://www.mercurynews.com

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