- Small, streamlined marine mammals covered in brown fur with a “dog-like” face
- They have large flippers that they use to “walk” on land
- One of the easiest ways to tell sea lions and seals apart is that sea lions have visible ear flaps
- Males are often chocolate brown, females a golden brown
- Adult females grow to 220 pounds and 6 feet long
- Adult males grow to 7-8 feet long and can weigh 850 pounds
- At around five years old, males develop a bony bump on the top of their head, and the top of males’ heads gets lighter with age
- Nearshore waters from Vancouver Island, Canada to southern Baja California, Mexico
- Also found in the Gulf of California, Mexico
- California sea lions often breed on offshore islands
- They can be found closely packed together, often in the hundreds, on docks, piers, and favorite coves and beaches
- They are often seen sunbathing at La Jolla Cove
- Must pups are born in June or July
- Pups weigh 13-20 pounds at birth
- Pups nurse for 5-6 months at least, sometimes up to a year
- Mothers and pups recognize each other on crowded rookeries by smell and vocalization
- Breeding takes place a few weeks after birth
- Males bark almost continuously during breeding season
- Small fish, mackerel, rockfish, squid, octopus, herring, and small sharks
- They are eaten by killer whales and great white sharks
- California Sea Lions are very social, often living in groups of several hundred on land.
- California Sea Lions are known for their intelligence, playfulness, and noisy barking.
- Sea lions have been seen “surfing” the waves right next to humans.
- The trained “seals” at zoos and aquariums are often California sea lions, due to their intelligence.
Sources: Voices in the Sea; The Marine Mammal Center
Photo: Howard Hall
To hear a California Sea Lion’s bark and see videos of them swimming, visit Voices in the Sea, a collaboration between the Pacific Life Foundation and Scripps Institution of Oceanography.