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California Sea Lion

Zalophus californianus

California sea lions are impressive marine mammals known for their size, agility, and unique looks. They can grow really big, up to 8 feet long (2.5 meters), and some can weigh as much as 660 pounds (300kg), which is about as heavy as a small car! 

They have sleek bodies that help them zoom through the water, and their front flippers are super long, helping them steer and move with ease.

Their fur is thick and kind of rough, usually a dark brown color that helps them blend in with their ocean home. One cool feature is their pointed head and special V-shaped nostrils that make them easy to spot. And their flippers? They’re big and have webbing between the toes, sort of like a duck’s feet, which makes them great swimmers.


California sea lions make their homes along the North American coastline, stretching from the chilly waters of Alaska all the way down to the warm shores of Mexico. 

They have a fondness for coastal areas, especially those with rocky cliffs, scenic islands, and sheltered bays that offer plenty of opportunities for both rest and play.

When it’s time for a break from swimming, these sea lions look for haul-out sites, which can be sandy beaches perfect for sunbathing, or even man-made structures like piers where they can sprawl out and relax. 

These spots aren’t just for lounging; they’re also important places for sea lions to breed and raise their young, making them crucial to the sea lions’ way of life along the coast.

What do California Sea Lions eat? They are opportunistic feeders, and their diet primarily consists of fish and squid. They are known to consume a wide variety of prey, including anchovies, sardines, herring, hake, and rockfish. They are also known to eat octopus, crabs, and other crustaceans.

California sea lions are social animals and live in large groups called rookeries.  They are also known for their vocalizations, which include barks, growls, and whistles.

They are known for their intelligence and playfulness, and are often seen performing acrobatic feats such as diving, jumping and swimming. 

California sea lions are like the acrobats of the ocean, able to twist, turn, and dive deep, all thanks to their amazing build and flippers. Whether they’re hunting for fish or playing in the waves, these sea lions are perfectly designed for life at sea. 

California sea lions are part of the Otariidae family, just like fur seals. They’re actually a special kind of Steller sea lion (Eumetopias jubatus), and they come in two types: the western sea lion (Eumetopias jubatus jubatus) and the eastern sea lion (Eumetopias jubatus californianus). The California sea lions we see along the coast are the eastern variety.
Are California Sea Lions endangered? Even though these sea lions are doing pretty well and aren’t in immediate danger of disappearing, thanks to their big numbers and wide home range, they’ve had some tough times. Things like hunting and pollution have made their numbers go down. 
Plus, they still have to watch out for problems like getting caught in fishing gear, losing their natural homes, and getting sick. So, while they’re not on the endangered list, we still need to keep an eye out and help protect these amazing ocean dwellers.
California Sea Lion Graphic
California Sea Lion Clickable
By Rhododendrites - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,
California sea lion seal enjoying the rays of the sun in Baja California
© By Kadu Pinheiro/Wirestock - Stock.Adobe.Com
The California sea lion (Zalophus californianus), closeup view
By Edwin-Butter - Envato Elements