The species is named for the naturalist Georg Wilhelm Steller, who first described them in 1741. The Steller sea lion has attracted considerable attention in recent decades, owing to significant and largely unexplained declines in their numbers over an extensive portion of their northern range in Alaska. Light tan to reddish brown colouration; can appear greyish white in the water. Males have a large, robust body, thick neck, and mane; females are more slender. Robust head with short, broad snout, and small external ear flaps. Large hairless flippers can support body for “walking”.
They are found across the entire B.C. coast year-round. Congregate at rookeries to breed in summer, and disperse to winter and year-round sites the remainder of the year.
- Length; 3 metres,
- Weight; 1000kg,
- Life span; 20-30 years,
- Gestation; 11.5 months
Steller sea lions are skilled and opportunistic marine predators, feeding on a wide range of fish and cephalopod species. Important diet components include walleye pollock, mackerel, halibut, herring, capelin, flatfish, Pacific cod, rockfish, sculpins, salmon, sand lance, and cephalopods such as various squid and octopus. They seem to prefer schooling fish and forage primarily between intertidal zones and continental shelves. They are known to aggregate near fishing vessels, preying on bycatch discards.
The composition of the diet of Steller sea lions varies seasonally and geographically; as opportunistic predators, they concentrate on the locally most abundant prey species. In addition to their primary marine environment, they sometimes enter estuaries and feed on brackish-water fish such as sturgeon. Very occasionally, they have been known to prey on northern fur seals, harbour seals, and sea otter pups. Records suggest that the range of their prey species has broadened over time.