Q-Tip: Time to see the seals

According to some recent information from a ranger with the California Dept. of Parks and Recreation, guided walks to see elephant seals began on Dec. 15. Those walks take place at Ano Nuevo State Reserve.

If you're interested in seeing the elephant seals, the Ano Nuevo State Reserve is located west of Calif. S.R. 1, between the cities of Santa Cruz and Half Moon Bay. It is about a 1.5 hour drive south of San Francisco.

Those walks will continue every day through Mar. 31, with the exception of these dates: Dec. 25, Jan. 20 and Feb. 24.

In addition, there will also be guided walks for special needs persons on Saturdays and Sundays. Persons with special needs are asked to call (650) 879-2033, Mon.-Fri., 1-4 p.m.

As a special "Q-Tip" for this time of the year, here's an unique opportunity to join California state park rangers, naturalists and other visitors on an enjoyable and informative walk among huge marine mammals in their natural habitat.

Ano Nuevo State Reserve is the site of the largest mainland breeding colony in the world of the northern elephant seal.

The world's largest!

Since 1975, that herd has increased from only 35 males to more than 4,000 animals, including more than 1,500 pups born in the winter. Not too shabby!

Elephant seal bulls and cows begin arriving in early December and the pups are born between December and February. Most of the adults are gone by early March, leaving behind the weaned pups, who remain through April.

General public Seal Walk Tickets cost $4 per person.

Reservations can be made up to 56 days in advance or as late as one day, prior to the reservation date that you desire.

Family and individual reservations may be made by calling (800) 444-4445.

When you arrive at the Reserve, there is also good news and bad news:

The bad news is that there is an entrance fee of $5 per car, to be paid on arrival. The good news is that beginning Jan. 1, that fee will drop to $2.

Once you're there, the first trip of the day begins at approximately 8:45 a.m.

The total time for a guided walk is about 2 hours.

You will travel about three miles over sandy, rolling dunes.

Those walks are conducted rain or shine and be forewarned: the weather can be very cold and windy, rain is frequent and the trail may be muddy.

Visitors should always have hooded rain gear, warm layered clothing, and sturdy walking shoes. Umbrella use is not permitted during windy conditions.

Eating food, chewing gum and smoking are prohibited during the guided walks.

Food and beverages are not sold at the Reserve and there is no drinking water along the trail.

Here's a unique chance to see northern elephant seals (bulls, cows and pups) up close in their native habitat.

Don't forget your camera, plenty of film and good raingear.

For information, call (650) 879-2025 or (650) 879-0227 or visit their website at www.anonuevo.org.

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