Cackling goose and Snow goose

Light Wind in the morning, String Westerly in the evening. Cloudy with scattered showers. Rain in the evening. Tour boats:8 1030 flyover by a small float plane The Cackling Goose and Snow Goose (note — a new record for Race Rocks ) are still foraging on the grass on Great Race. The Canada Geese often chase these two smaller geese. The Sea lions all moved to the East side of West Rocks this morning. Up until today, they had been on South Rocks since I got here in the middle of March. Eagles are regularly flying over Great Race and making all the Gulls take flight, but I have yet to see an Eagle grab a Gull.

-Ran the fire pump -Cleaned all the fire hose fittings -Fixed tank shed storage door latch -Worked on SOPs


'Cranky Pants' (aka scabby molt) resting next to the desalinator shed.  Her skin is healing and she is less cranky.

‘Cranky Pants’ (aka scabby molt) resting next to the desalinator shed. Her skin is healing and she is less cranky.

-Issues with underwater camera. Checked junction boxes and lines from jetty to tank house.
-Pressure washed South side of keepers house. Waiting for rain to fill water tank to continue.


Morning fog. Moderate East wind. Sunny the rest of the day.
Tour boats: 4

It seems that, as the sea lions are leaving, more gulls and birds are moving onto Greater Race Rock. There have also been a lot of dense groups of gulls and diving birds on the water in and around the reserve.

The juvenile elephant seal with scabby molt (aka ‘Cranky Pants’) has returned to the boat ramp. Her skin has healed up a bit since she was last here a few weeks ago.

Kayakers next to South Rock

Kayakers next to South Rock-This kind of approach regularly scares birds and the seals and sea lions form the rocks.

-took the boston whaler in, traded it for a zodiac
-loaded the boat dolly onto Second Nature with Erik
-ran desalinator
-cleaned and scraped the zodiac
-tidied basement

Animal Notes

A single, juvenile Greater White Fronted goose (Anser albifrons) arrived a few days ago and has been rustling around the middle of Greater Race Rock. This species was also documented at Race Rocks on May 2012, May 2007 and September 2007. Thanks Ann for verifying the species.

At the end of September a juvenile elephant seal was on the jetty for roughly a week. It had the classic signs of a scabby molt. Scabby molt is a skin disease that attacks elephant seals between the ages of eight months and two years old. Two-year-old elephant seals often suffer from a skin disease known as the northern elephant seal skin disease or NESSD for short. This form of dermatitis is also often referred to as scabby molt. This ulcerative skin disease can either infect a small portion of the fur and underlying skin or spread to cover up to 60% or more of this outer protective layer. Although, in most cases, the elephant seals heal up without any further problems, sometimes, secondary bacterial infections and/or sepsis can lead to death.

Check out this link to a paper by Beckamn et al, 1997 that describes this disease.

-Ran desalinator
-Washed solar panels
-Washed exterior windows on Student house
-Tidied Student house basement and bathroom
-Hung pictures in student house
-Fixed underwater camera issue with help from Jonathan

Female Elephant Seals

The elephant seal population has been steadily declining over the past few weeks.  For the last few days since Jan 19 there have not been any female elephant seals visible in the reserve.  This is the time when elephant seal pups have been born out here in the past so it is somewhat surprising and a bit disappointing.  Both male elephant seals have been back and forth between the main island and West rock and have been chasing and trying to mount the few small females that have been around, which is likely why they have all left.

Guard seal

Guard seal

Small e- seal moulting

Small e- seal moulting

Large female elephant seal on Middle rock .. possibly Bertha?

Large female elephant seal on Middle rock .. possibly Bertha?

Slash, a year and a half after recovery

Slash, the elephant seal was struck by a motor boat at Race Rocks in January of 2003. Fortunately he has recovered well in the past year and a half as can be seen here in two videos taken by Mike Slater in July and August of 2004.

There is also a second video showing Slash undergoing a moult in August of 2004.

See the footage taken of his original injuries here.recovereed


Return to the Elephant seal taxonomy file:

Elephant Seal Moulting 2

Race Rocks is at the northern limit of distribution of the Elephant Seal. They often number from 2 to 3 large males and 4 or 5 females. Arriving in January, they usually stay through the summer on the middle island and then leave for several months in the winter. Elephant seals often undergo a juvenile moult on the local beaches of Victoria when several years old. This individual may be at the end of such a moult as it still has a few sore spots on it’s coat. They end up on beaches where they wallow in the sand to keep the flies off. Members of the public often report them to the “authorities” as being diseased in appearance as their skin is blistered and raw. There has even been an example in the past few years in the local Victoria area when an animal in such condition was reported to the authorities as sick and due to ignorance, the animal was shot by an animal control officer. Of course this outraged some of some local residents who had been observing it for weeks as it was going through the moult, but the mistake had been made. So humans — leave well enough alone. Misguided intervention is not helpful for this rather rare pinniped.

Moulting Elephant Seal video

The video of this female elephant was taken off the South side of Race Rocks. It was done iby Alex Fletcher in hi 8 – before we had SONY cameras that would record in Digital. One can see the patchy skin typical of the moulting stage just behind the head. This seal had probably already gone through the most serious part of the juvenile moult, which may have occurred on one of the sandy beaches over near Metchosin.

Elephant Seals Around Southern Vancouver Island : 1990

By Robin W. Baird

Elephant Seals occur fairly frequently on -the B.C. coast, but few people recognize them when they do see them. Adult males only rarely come ashore, and while in the water animals of all ages and both sexes spend up to 90% of their time beneath the surface. Their behaviour while at the surface makes them very difficult to notice as well: at first glance they appear similar to a large, partially waterlogged log floating vertically at the surface (commonly termed a deadhead). Unlike real deadheads, which may bob up and down with waves or a swell, Elephant Seals just sink slowly out of sight after several minutes, and may not surface again for half an hour or more. In fact, the maximum recorded dive length (actually, for the similar southern Elephant Seal) is exactly two hours (Hindell et al. 1989), and they usually only surface for two to three minutes before repeating their dive. They do this day and night, for days, weeks and even months on end, even sleeping underwater. As well, they are generally solitary except during the breeding season, and only breed off the California and Mexican coasts.( now-2006,  also at race Rocks)


Elephant Sea[, at Race Rocks. (Photo: Robin Baird)

Moulting occurs at different times throughout the year depending on the age and sex of the animal. Juvenile Elephants Seals (about 1.5 – 2 metres in length) moult in the spring. In B.C. this is the age class most frequently seen hauling out to moult.

Moulting in Elephant Seals not only involves losing the hair, but the entire outer layer of skin, often in great sheets, and frequently the animals suffer from skin infections, resulting in bleeding. These infections are usually of low level and do not typically seriously harm the animal. When Pinnipeds (seals, sea lions and walruses) come out of the water their eyes continuously water to keep them moist, an adaptation that protects their eyes but also contributes to their sick appearance.

Most people assume that Elephant Seals are much larger than the juveniles which typically haul out in this area, but at this stage they appear fairly similar to Harbour Seals. In fact, confusing juvenile Elephant Seals with Harbour Seals occurs frequently. Despite the fact

Elephant Seal, adult male. (Photo: P.J. Stacey)

Elephant Seal, adult male. (Photo: P.J. Stacey)

that Elephant Seals can be approached closely by people on foot, have watering eyes, and due to their epidermal moult have skin that is literally falling off and sometimes infected, these are normal conditions and the animals are in reality quite healthy. There have been several occasions around Victoria in the last year where such Elephant Seals have been mistakenly identified as sick Harbour Seals and this has resulted in the inadvertent euthanization of the animals.

The differences between juvenile Elephant Seals and Harbour Seals are fairly obvious once you know what they are. Unlike Harbour Seals, Elephant Seals have no spots on the skin, rather they are a uniform greyish brown or yellowish colouration, although while moulting, their skin appears very patchy. The rather “swolled’ snout, and the horizontal crease just below the nostrils are characteristic of Elephant Seals, and a harbinger of the bulbous nose that comes with adulthood for the males. The hind flippers of Harbour Seals are relatively straight along the trailing edge, while Elephant Seals have a inverted U-shaped curve to the trailing edge of their hind flippers. Many of the animals are also tagged on the hind flippers, while very little work has been done in tagging Harbour Seals.

More accurate identification of Elephant Seals will both prevent the types of accidents mentioned above from occurring, and will assist research in terms of trying to monitor the numbers of Elephant Seals in the province. If population numbers in B.C. mimic the increase seen in their breeding range off California, Elephant Seals may become a more common sight off our coast. Such an increase should not worry those concerned with potential conflicts with fisheries, as the diet of the Elephant Seal consists mainly of species largely ignored commercially, such as Ratfish, Dogfish and other sharks, various species of skate, some squid, Cusk Eels, and occasionally deep water, slow swimming fish.

Records of Elephant Seals around southern Vancouver Island have been increasing in the last year, although it is not known if this is due to an actual increase in their presence, or just that more people are aware of the differences between Harbour Seals and Elephant Seals, and are reporting their presence.

We have been attempting to respond to most reports of hauled out Elephant Seals, or of 1arge sick Harbour Seals that you can walk right up to”. We try to check for tags, record age and if possible sex (not an easy task since you’d have to roll the distress.

Some animals are branded as well as tagged, although they lose the brand when they moult. Many are double tagged, with a different number on each tag, so both left and right hind flippers should be checked if an animal is found.

A summary of records of Elephant Seals in B.C., including information on their origin (for tagged individuals), is presently being compiled by Victoria resident Marcel Gijssen and others. Dr. Burney Le Boeuf is responsible for tagging many of the animals born near Ano Nuevo, a site in central California between Santa Cruz and San Francisco.

Anyone observing elephant seals in B.C. can assist with this project by reporting sightings to me at the following address:Department of Biological Sciences,Simon Fraser University, address now not applicable
Hindell, M.A., Slipp, D.J., and Burton, H.R. 1989. Diving
Be-haviour and Foraging Ranges of Southern Elephant Seals (Mirounga leonina) From Macquire Island. Page 29 in Abstracts of the Eighth Biennial Conference on the Biol ogy of Marine Mammals, December 1989, Pacific Grove.

6The Victoria Naturalist Vol. 47.2 (1990)