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500-pound elephant seal determined to cross California highway

By Ben Hooper

SONOMA, Calif., Dec. 29 (UPI) -- A tenacious elephant seal that stopped traffic on a California highway during its repeated attempts to cross the road might be about to give birth, experts said.

The California Highway Patrol said the 500-pound elephant seal tried to cross Highway 37 in Sonoma County several times Monday, once making it as far as the median.

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CHP Officer Andrew Barclay said the seal first exited San Pablo Bay and crawled out in front of eastbound traffic about 1 p.m. Monday and attempted to crawl over the concrete median.

Barclay and others were able to coax the seal back into the estuary, but she kept returning to make three more attempts to cross the road.

Barclay said the seal, who stopped traffic for more than a mile in both directions, took a gash out of the wooden board he was holding and flung saliva into his face.

The officer told KGO-TV the seal has "a lot of weight behind her and a lot of muscle. So she was moving us pretty easily, a lot of force."

"What we've seen is she's obviously still trying to get out of the water. She's very adamant she's going to cross this stretch of roadway," Barclay said.

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The elephant seal appeared to have given up as of 11 p.m. Monday, but reports indicate it was back trying to cross the road Tuesday morning.

Experts with the Marine Mammal Center said the elephant seal might have been trying to reach a field beyond the highway to give birth.

"If she is about to give birth that means she is in her prime. So she's got a lot of weight, she's got a lot of strength on her, she could tear the board away from your hands if you don't hold it the proper way," Marine Mammal Center expert Barbie Halaska said.

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