Whose Beach? Our Beach

Staying put thanks. A.P photo

For all you naysayers who think the Trump shutdown accomplished nada except wreaking havoc on those who could least afford it, we present one indisputable benefit: Lacking adult supervision, restless for adventure and evidently intent on reclaiming what is after all theirs, about 60 rogue elephant seals knocked down a fence and took over a stretch of beach at Northern California's Point Reyes National Seashore usually reserved for biped pleasure-seekers. The park's resident colony of about 1,500 elephant seals are a key tourist attraction - visitors are urged to "combine your elephant seal discovery with a walk along the Chimney Rock Trail" to see spring wildflowers - but the seals typically frequent the sheltered, high-cliffed Chimney Beach. During the shutdown, officials speculate, they were inspired by the absence of park staff and a January storm's "king tides" to seek dry ground at the ordinarily tourist-packed Drakes Beach.

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The invasion took place as staff were furloughed; they returned after the park reopened Sunday to find two seals - at about 4,500 pounds each - parked in the parking lot, one under a picnic table, one on an accessible ramp. The rest were blithely lounging on the beach, likely planning their next insurgency. Park spokesperson John Dell’Osso says in the past an occasional seal "has popped up" on Drakes Beach - and been nudged back by shaking tarps at him/her - but he's seen “nothing like this.” Because seals breed in the winter, the original seals have now been joined by about 35 pups. To protect them, staff have closed the road to the beach and visitors' center parking area; they have no plans to move the seals while they're nursing pups, but are considering eventual tours. Meanwhile, people are happy a species once hunted almost to extinction for its blubber and still threatened by habitat loss has been reclaimed by its rightful owners - proving "Mother Nature bats last." The current shutdown score: Seals: 95, Trump: zero.

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