The Bay water temperature is dropping, most recently around 54 degrees Fahrenheit. The Bay activity is different this time of year, too. As more food sources shelter in the Bay from winter swells, so do seals and sea lions, eager for a nice meal of crab or perhaps sardines.

Yesterday brought not one but two pinniped encounters in the Aquatic Park cove (I’ll say pinniped to encompass all variations of seals, sea lions). One sea lion decided my friend was competing with them for food and chased her past the breakwater and along the Balclutha. She escaped with a scratch and some dents in her bright yellow fins. The other encounter happened minutes later when a gray harbor seal chased my friend all the way to shore – no nips or bites but a good scare. We’re not alone in the water.

Recently I’d ventured south to Año Nuevo state park. There, on the beach while looking at the surf lay a very sleepy elephant seal, so large it could be mistaken for a rock. I kept my distance (25 feet or more), but got close enough to see it exhale from whatever dream it was having. Elephant seals are less curious about humans than their seal and sea lion cousins – they’re barely aware of them but they can barrel over a human in seconds if food or a mate is nearby.

Luckily all the pinnipeds I mentioned looked fairly healthy and happy, but others aren’t so lucky.

To report a stranded marine mammal: call the Marine Mammal Center at (415) 289-SEAL or email (photos especially helpful).