California Sea Lion

Rhododendrites, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Dark brown colouration and almost black when wet. Males have a large, robust body, thick neck, and no mane; pronounced forehead (sagittal crest) crowned with a patch of light fur; dog-like head with a long, narrow snout, and small external ear flaps. Large hairless flippers can support body for “walking”.

Only adult and sub-adult males are seen in B.C. waters. Present year round, but larger numbers are seen from September-May.

  • Length; 2.5 metres, 
  • Weight; 400kg,
  • Life span; 15-25 years,
  • Gestation; 11 months 

Will haul out on rocky outcrops and islets, buoys and jetties. At sea they are often seen alone or in small groups and frequently gather in large “rafts” at the surface; often with flippers in the air. Vocalizations sound like repeated honking barks. 

California sea lions feed mainly offshore in coastal areas. They eat a variety of prey—such as squid, anchovies, mackerel, rockfish, and sardines—found in upwelling areas. They also may take fish from commercial fishing gear, sport fishing lines, and fish passage facilities at dams and rivers.

They are very social on land and in the water, but during the breeding season the males aggressively defend their territories and females fight other females to protect their pups. While on the breeding islands, California sea lions are very skittish of humans and will run into the water if they see or smell people.

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