This individual looked as though he had contracted an unfortunate skin disease with the additional insult of a propeller encounter, but upon a closer look we realized that his molt involved loosing not only his hair but his entire outer layer of skin! So the scratches were his own.
With a diet of species like ratfish, sharks, skate, squid and eels, a male Elephant seal can easily get up to 5,000 pounds and I would say that this one was pretty close to that size.
Although they used to be common on the northern pacific coast, to have such an encounter is now quite rare as elephant seals were wiped out in the late 1800; hunted for their oil which was used for fuel and lubricant. They were thought to be extinct, but some survived and populations from California to Alaska are up to more than 1,500 individuals now.
Let’s hope their populations continue to grow so that such encounters will become more common on our coast.
Kim Wright is the Marine Planning and Protected Areas Campaign Manager at Living Oceans Society.