By Don Ford

POINT REYES (KPIX 5) — A popular Marin beach that has been overrun by elephant seals has led park rangers to step in to protect both the public and the marine mammals.

Elephant seals have always been on Drake’s Beach, usually about a mile north of the parking lot.

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During last weekend’s storm, a large group of the sea mammals moved down to the public beach. Point Reyes rangers say the move is is a cause for concern.

Drake’s Beach is normally spotted with families, children and picnics. On Thursday, the beach was temporally closed. For reasons not completely understood by authorities, dozens of elephant seals split off from the larger herd during the storm and took over the beach.

Rangers say people and elephant seals don’t safely mix.

They may look fat and slow, but if you get too close, Point Reyes Marine Ecologist Sarah Codde says they can hurt you.

“They’ll rear-up, they might even growl at you but they are fast! They are much faster than you would expect them to be so, you might not be able to react quick enough to get away from them,” said Codde.

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Some of the mammals weigh over a thousand pounds and they have big teeth that they’re not afraid to use.

“You do not want to anger the larger animals,” said Codde.

This is not a group of moms and babies. These are molting young adults in the process of losing their winter coats. You can see the fur peeling away on their faces.

The rangers want these invaders to rejoin the main herd. They are doing it carefully.

“[We] use a large tarp that we kind of shake at them. The wind will help blow the tarp towards them. Just having this large visual that they don’t understand is enough to alarm them,” explained Codde.

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Point Reyes says they should have the beach cleared and open by this Saturday.