Article

5 Reasons You’re Glad Your Boo Isn’t an Alpha Male Elephant Seal

As Valentine’s Day approaches we consider the drawbacks of elephant seal sex and romance.

By Lillian Justice

February 11th—Alpha male elephant seals are terrible Valentine's Day dates. Here's why:

You must share your date with 20 other lady seals.

This isn’t a comment on monogamy vs. polygyny or anything. I’m just saying, an alpha male has a harem of 10 to 30 females. It's simple math: he’s splitting his time many ways. He’s also busy fighting off younger males—those fricken punks—and he can’t take the day off if he wants to keep his genes relevant.

You can’t take him out to dinner this time of year.

Because he won’t eat. Elephant seals—male and female alike— fast every winter while they’re on land. There’s no fresh fish or squid on the beach, so really, what else is there to do? A romantic dinner isn’t an option.

(A fun lesson in biology: if you don’t eat, you don’t poop.)

There’s nowhere to go on a date anyways.

There’s two possible date destinations: the ocean, and the mysterious land that lies beyond the highway (is it another beach?!). Neither are great options. The ocean is way too sharky, and the highway is plagued with fast-moving, angry monsters.

Seals have attempted a highway crossing before, but it never goes well. Tolay, who was expecting a pup, decided to cross Highway 37 this December. She was determined, but pesky humans kept blocking her. The next day she woke up at Point Reyes, unable to remember how she got there. Read about her story.

He's a gross slob.

I will refrain from making fun of his big, wobbly nose. But I will point out that he’s just… gross. Large snot blobs dangle from his nose for hours. Elephant seal snot is opaque and white. I don’t care if it’s “normal,” it’s alarming.

Also, who wants a partner who’s three times their body weight? Alpha males weigh up to 6,600 pounds, while gals weigh a measly ton or less. This is not a good thing for sexy time.

Learn more strange facts about elephant seals.

He’s really boring.

He won’t move (or breathe!) for hours. Human tourists assume he’s dead until he sneezes or scratches himself.

When seals fast for three months, they have to do certain things to avoid starvation. One important thing to do is: nothing. Elephant seals slow their heart rate and stop breathing for long moments when on land. This state of inactivity helps them save their strength. Even if apnea is necessary for survival, a Valentine's Day date in a comatose state is not cute.

Read about the rescue of a stranded elephant seal pup too young to live on her own.

Elephant seal tours at Año Nuevo run through March 31. Click for more information and reservations.

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Plant your flag! Upload a photo, video, field note, nature poem or question for our army of (mostly) amateur naturalists.

 

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