Creature Feature: Steller Sea Lion

With the arrival of spring flowers and nesting birds, it can be easy to forget the world of life in Humboldt County’s oceans and bay. Today we’ll take a dive offshore and look at a very special marine mammal: the Steller Sea Lion (Eumetopias jubatus). These massive mammals are the largest Sea Lions in the world, with some males weighing in at almost 2500 lbs.

Not sure how to tell a seal from a sea lion? It’s pretty simple: sea lions look a little more like dogs, and can scoot around on land using their back flippers. Seals are more tube-shaped and can’t “stand” on their flippers like sea lions can.

Stellers aren’t the only sea lions in Humboldt county. The smaller California Sea Lion is a more common sight hauled out on marinas and rocks near shore. Stellers tend to stay a little farther offshore and can be viewed on rocks off the coast of Redwood National Parks. Stellers and CA Sea Lions can sometimes be confused, but there are a few distinguishing features to keep in mind. Stellers have a blonde coat, and males are much larger with a bulkier head and neck.

The Steller Sea Lion is federally listed as “threatened” due to recent population declines in their Alaska range. Since being listed, Steller populations have almost fully recovered, but the species remains at risk. So if you happen to spot one, consider it a special treat!

Photo: USFWS-Pacific Region on Flickr
Sources: Wikipedia-Steller Sea Lion