Elephant Seal Tries to Cross Highway, Has Dream Crushed by Humans

Who are you saying needs rescuing? Photo: California Highway Patrol

Early this week, an elephant seal out in Sonoma County, California, took advantage of a slow news day and decided to make headlines by trying to cross a highway multiple times. The 900-pound seal — who turned out to be pregnant — caused huge traffic jams and was pretty opposed to returning to the water, no matter how many people tried to convince her the bay was much better than the highway shoulder.

The standoff continued for more than 24 hours, and finally, when the seal — who was nicknamed “Tolay,” for the creek from which she emerged — came back to a muddy field, marine biologists and highway patrol tranquilized the stubborn lady. They released her on the coast at Point Reyes, one of the areas where elephant seals usually give birth to their pups this time of the winter.

The obvious question, of course, is why did this seal try to cross the road? Marine biologists aren’t particularly sure either; the elephant seal didn’t appear hurt or sick. But what is certain is that elephant seals — both in California and their brethren in the Southern Hemisphere — have had quite a busy year seeing the sights and attempting to go on road trips.

So in honor of this her dream deferred, here’s a look at the year (and a few honorary mentions from years past) in elephant-seal escapades. 

Elephant Seal Visits Boardwalk, Doesn’t Love It 
This Sunday, a 4,000-pound male elephant seal destroyed some fencing so he could visit the boardwalk at Piedras Blancas in California. Once there, he ultimately decided to take a mid-morning nap. He relaxed there for a few hours — officials were kind enough to put up caution tape so he could get some quality shut-eye — until park rangers herded him back down the beach.

Suspicious Elephant Seal Picked Up by the Cops
Highway patrolmen in California caught sight of an elephant seal wandering along the highway in November between two towns. Officials had to rescue the seal, whom they nicknamed Chief Solano. 

Elephant Seal Wants to Join Prestigious Research Team
In August, a team of scientists from the British Antarctic Survey discovered an elephant seal attempting to climb onto their boat.

Elephant Seal Trolls Entire Island
This December, Bruny Island, a small isle off the coast of Tasmania, got a visit from an elephant seal whom residents at first mistook for a neighborhood vandal. The seal hung around for a while, tearing through fences, destroying a set of lawn furniture, and sunbathing in people’s backyards. “She was having a lovely time,” said one wildlife biologist, who saw her outside a café, crushing some lattice work and napping by a van. Eventually marine biologists had to wrestle the beast (a marine biologist climbed onto her back) to end the animal’s reign of terror.

Baby Elephant Seal Wants to Cuddle
A two-month-old, but still huge, baby seal snuggled with a woman on an island in the Antarctic. 

Elephant Seal Has #squadgoals
This May, an elephant seal tried to take over her own beach in Perth, Australia and, according to reports, spent all day posing for pictures and greeting fans. 

NIMBY Elephant Seals
Filmmakers creating a documentary about penguins on an island in the Antarctic in November 2013 had a horde of elephant seals visit the set. After messing with some camera equipment, they gleefully flattened one of the filmmaker’s tents. 

Elephant Seal Road-Crossing MVP
In 2013, this elephant seal wandered up from a beach in Brazil and parked himself in a crosswalk in a tourist town for more than an hour. We assume he’s been inspiring his species ever since.

Elephant Seal Tries to Cross Road, But Thwarted