Everything You Need to Know About the California Sea Lion

Anyone who’s ever stood on the pier at the iconic Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, is quite familiar with the spectacle that is the California Sea Lion. Renown for their incessant barking, sharp intelligence, and unmistakable mischievousness, these cooky clowns make their debut at the Blue Lagoon Sanctuary. Crowds flock from around the world to get up close and personal with these clown like mammals. Want to more about these mysterious beings? Of course you do! Here are a few fun facts about the California Sea Lion you might not have known!

What Do They Look Like?

Sea Lions in general, come in a wide range of colors. The males tend to come in a dark almost chocolate or espresso colored brown, and the females are generally a light to golden brown tone. As you may have noticed, the females are significantly smaller than the males. With the females weighing 220 pounds and averaging six feet in length, they pale in comparison to the males which can weigh as much as 850 pounds and grow up to seven feet long! That is a LOT of sea lion! This particular breed of sea lion is distinctive for its very canine like face and their “sagittal crest”, a hard bump on the top of their skull that they use to ram other bulls during mating season, or when they’re feeling territorial. This bump actually changes color and becomes lighter as the sea lion gets older.

Where Do They Live?

California Sea Lions are generally found on the Western Coast of North America. There is an abundance of them off the beautifully rugged shores of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. They are also found all the way down the Western Pacific coast, right down to the tip of the Baja. When breeding season rolls around, they can be found partnering on the islands offshore, often in California’s Channel Islands and right down south to Mexico. Another fabulous place they hang out is he Galapagos Islands in Ecuador

What About Breeding?

The summer months are the breeding months. Pups are generally born anywhere from the end of May into late July, and they weight about 15-20 pounds when they’re born, a far cry from their father’s 850 pounds! If you’ve ever taken a boat to a sea lion colony, it’s difficult to imagine that a mother seal could recognize her helpless pup amidst the beached bodies. But she recognizes both their smell and their noises. In return, pups learn very quickly, how to recognize the smell of their mother and will respond by barking. During the breeding season, the large males will spend the duration of their time patrolling the area, barking and challenging encroaching males.

How Do They Behave?

You will notice that California Sea Lions, like dolphin, are incredibly social, comical creatures. They live in large groups, and the more sandwiched together, the better. That’s why when you go to San Francisco, you always sea them squashed together on Fisherman’s Wharf like a bunch of sardines in a can! When they’re in the ocean, they’ll often link together, and create one gargantuan raft. During your Sea Lion encounter, you will probably receive a big kiss and loads of splashing, nothing less is to be expected from these clowns of the sea.

What Do they Eat?

California Sea Lions are what biologists like to refer to as “opportunistic feeders” which means, they don’t generally spend days on end hunting for sustenance, they eat all sorts of things other sea creatures wouldn’t. They love herring, rockfish, mackerel, small sharks and squid, just as an example.