Steller Sea Lions
Latin Name: Eumetopias jubatus
How often and when do we see them?
These animals can be seen year round, although they tend to be mostly sighted during the fall and winter months.
Size & Description
The Stellar Sea Lion is a common species of Pinniped seen in the local waters around Vancouver Island during the fall/winter periods. They are the largest of the Otarrids (eared-seals). They are a very distinct brown colour and tend to make a loud growling/belching sound. They can weigh up to 1.2 tons and can reach 7ft-9.25ft (2.4m-2.8m) in length. The males are unmistakably bigger than females, often up 3 times the size.
In the wild, these males live up to 18 years and females up to 30 years. Females will generally begin to reproduce around age 5 and typically have one pup per year.
Diet & Feeding
Steller Sea Lions do enjoy feeding on a wide array of fish species and cephalopods (octopus and squid species). Their incredible swimming ability allows them to easily catch approximately 6% of their body weight in food daily.
· Breeding – Stellar Sea Lion populations mate and breed in certain beaches, known as rookeries. This tends to happen in the spring/summer period for North America. The males will aggressively fight one another in order to hold a territory, although the majority of males are unable to do this until they reach approximately 9-10 years of age. Females will choose a territory based on their perception or preference of a good place to give birth and raise their pup. Whichever male's territory they choose is the one who will get to mate with them once they have given birth. So in other words, if you are a male Stellar Sea Lion it is all about location in the dating game.
Interestingly, a mum and her pup recognise and identify with each other once she comes back from foraging for food for the day through their keen sense of smell.
Note - these rookeries are covered with little to no rocks showing due to the amount of animals covering them.
· Under the water – Steller sea lions are graceful and mesmerizing to watch under the water. During their stay in the local waters, they can be seen on land around Race Rocks, which is also an incredible dive site. Diving with these animals is an unforgettable experience, as their playful nature and curiosity brings them to within inches of your body. They also have the tendency to use you as a chew toy.
Threats & Conservation
Since the 1980s, it has been reported that a massive decline in the Stellar Sea Lion population has occurred, with over 75% of the population disappearing. The cause or combination of causes that have resulted in such a dramatic decrease in the population is unknown, and there are currently numerous studies being undertaken in order to determine the cause or causes of the population decrease. According to Vancouver Aquarium, factors that may be playing a key role in this decline include: overfishing of preferred prey stock, an increase in predation by Orca, and an increase in competition for food by other animals and humans.