Whatcom Magazine

Northwest nature: Steller sea lion

Steller sea lions ( Eumetopias jubatus), also known as northern sea lions, are the largest member of the family of seals with ears. Males can grow to 11 feet and 2,500 pounds; females, nine feet and 1,000 pounds. Their range includes the northern waters of the Salish Sea.

They are tan to reddish brown, with white whiskers and black flippers. Adult males are bulky, with a thick neck with fur that resembles a lion’s mane, thus the name “sea lion.” Their range extends along the coast of the northern Pacific, from Japan, through Alaska and down to central California.

Steller sea lions usually feed at night, eating fish, squid and octopus; clams, oysters, mussels and scallops; and, on occasion, walruses and other seals. They can travel long distances and dive to depth of a quarter mile.

They usually roam the sea alone or in small groups, but larger groups gather on land to rest, molt, and to breed and raise pups. That’s where you’ll see the males vocalizing loudly as they bob their heads.