HUGE, smelly, loud, funny, curious. These are all words that we hear from guests when viewing Steller sea lions, and yes, they are all those things.
Steller sea lions are the biggest sea lions in the world. The average adult male, or bull, Steller sea lion can weigh up to 2,500lbs. It’s not just the bulls that are huge, the females can weigh up to 1000lbs. They need to eat a lot of fish to sustain their body weight.
Which brings me to..
You know when you are downwind from a Steller sea lion haul out site, and the best thing to do is just breath it all in. Steller sea lions eat lots of different types of fish including salmon, herring and cod. They also eat octopus! When they are all hauled out together, the fishy sea lion smell is congregated in one place and multiplied. We’ll try not to hangout down wind for too long, but it’s a smell you won’t forget!
Often when you think of sea lions you think of the “barking” sound they make. The barking sound comes from California sea lions (which we also see around Victoria, often mixed in with the Steller sea lions). Steller sea lions roar like lions, and they never really have a moment of quiet. When we near a haul out site people will often ask if they are growling because boats are near. They are very vocal animals and they will growl all day and night, no matter who is around. With all the loud growling, I always wonder how they get any sleep!
Unlike harbour seals, sea lions can move their hips and have big flippers that help them be mobile on land. Often, they are seen crawling over each other, falling in the water or hoping out of the water to join the others on the rock. The males will often sit with their nose pointed up at the sky, looking very regal. There is a lot to take in, and it’s hard not to smile watching them.
We could also see Steller sea lions swimming around in groups near the haul out site. We can stop the Zodiac and while our skipper is talking about Steller sea lions, they will slowly get closer and closer.. popping their heads in and out of the water, getting a closer look. They can be a curious bunch!
To experience these amazing animals for yourself and to learn more about Steller sea lions, join us for a Marine Wildlife Tour. You can even make up your own word to describe them!