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Point Reyes bus ride offers glimpse of nature

Shuttle bus service at Point Reyes National Seashore begins Friday to bring visitors to see Northern Elephant seals and Pacific gray whales, National Park Service officials said.

The park is located off of U.S. Highway 1 north of San Francisco. A report by park officials said the first northern elephant seal pup of the season has been born and a dozen gray whales have already migrated past the Lighthouse on their way to the warm lagoons of Baja, California.

According to the park service, this is the 17th year it’s operated the shuttle bus. The aim of the bus service is to relieve congestion on the way to viewing areas and protect the seashore’s fragile headlands, while allowing visitor access.

The service ends in late March after the whale migration period and the seal’s breeding season ends.

An official with the park service said:

“Winter is a wonderful time not only to watch the annual Pacific gray whale migration from Alaska to Mexico but also to celebrate the recovering populations of Northern Elephant seals as they return to breed at Point Reyes.”

Humans had hunted the Northern Elephant seal nearly to extinction by the late 1800s, the Point Reyes National Seashore Association says. The seals returned to the Port Reyes Headlands in the 1970s and the first breeding pair was discovered in 1981.

Since then researchers have found the colony has been growing at a 16 percent average annual rate. Pacific gray whales swim 10,000 miles each year migrating from the waters off Alaska to Mexico seeking food and to reproduce.

The service will operate on weekends and federal Monday holidays as well as January 1 and 2 in good weather. Tickets go on sale at 9:30 a.m. at the Ken Patrick Visitor Center at Drakes Beach and end at 3 p.m.

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