California Sea Lion

California Sea Lion Zalophus californianus

Type of Animal:
Eared Seal

Coastal waters, beaches, docks, buoys, jetties, coves, coastal islands, mainland shorelines, intertidal zones, sandbars, tide pools, piers, rocky areas, rocky coastlines, rocky outcrops, seaside rocks, offshore islands, wharves, marinas, bays, oil platforms, can be found hundreds of miles away from land, mostly saltwater but sometimes seen in coastal freshwater rivers, especially near Bonneville Dam in Oregon & Washington.

Pacific coast ranging from SE Alaska to C Mexico

Females/juveniles golden brown to tan to tawny brown to light gray/silver (most often tan, golden brown, or tawny brown w/ light gray/silver more apparent after molting), males light brown to dark brown to black (most often dark brown), males much larger than females w/ sagittal crest, both sexes have long, narrow dog-like muzzles, sleek torpedo-like body, large flippers, males have thicker bodies/necks. Overall, males darker/larger than females/juveniles.

Squid, anchovies, mackerel, rockfish, sardines, hake, herring, opaleye, octopuses, salmon, lamprey, whiting, clams, dogfish/other small sharks, krill, capelin, butterfish, smelt, garibaldi, sheephead wrasse

Status in Wild:

Breeding in zoos, aquariums, & marine parks

For most of year, found in loose groups of 10-600 animals. During breeding season, bulls fight for territories & harems of around 30 females. Many harems form large rookeries, sometimes w/ thousands of animals. Bachelor groups found on fringes of rookeries.

Additional Info:

Male: Bull
Female: Cow
Young: Pup
Group: Colony
Male: 600-1,000 lbs
Female: 140-240 lbs
Young: 80 lbs

11 months 

Life Span:
15-20 years in wild, 25-30 years in captivity

Male: 6.5 ft
Female: 5.5 ft

Body Length:
Male: 7-8 ft
Female: 6 ft
Young: 3.5 ft

Main predators of adults are orcas/killer whales, sharks, & pumas. Steller sea lions, coyotes, feral dogs, & bald eagles prey on pups.
Fights between males can be violent & intense, w/ many having bite wounds. Due to close physical proximity of animals, sometimes pups accidentally trampled.
Often bark somewhat similar to dogs. Males will bark/roar to declare territory. Females bark for many reasons.
Weights often fluctuate throughout the year, especially among males who often gain weight when food plentiful & lose weight during/after breeding season due to energy expenditure on mating/fighting.

Fun Fact(s):
Pier 39 in San Francisco popular tourist attraction where sea lions can be viewed year-round.
Trained “seals” most often these close relatives of seals. Unlike true seals, sea lion/fur seal flippers more noticeable & they have more noticeable small ear flaps.
While quite playful & rather friendly, they can be potentially dangerous due to sharp teeth/size. Sea lions used to being fed by people can become aggressive.
Can swim as fast as 25-30 mph & can stay underwater for 10 minutes in pursuit of prey.

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