California Sea Lions

Scientific NameZalophus californianus

Native To Pacific coast of North America and the Galapagos Islands

Habitat Rocky shores

Diet Over 50 species of fish including: salmon, octopuses, northern anchovy, herring, opaleye and squid. At West Edmonton Mall, we feed our sea lions squid, herring, capelin, smelt and mackerel.

Size and Age Males up to 2.4 m (8 ft) long, 340 kg (750 lbs), females generally no larger than 100 kg (220 lbs); average lifespan of 20-30 years

Natural History

California sea lions are “eared seals” which are commonly mistaken as "true seals." Sea lions (or eared seals) and true seals can be differentiated by the way they move on land and by their ears. Sea lions have a rotating hip bone, which allows them to tuck in their hind flippers so they can walk, run, jump and climb. True seals, on the other hand, have a fused hip bone and are not capable of walking, running or even jumping; they slide more on their bellies. Sea lions have external ear flaps that are easy to see, whereas true seals simply have tiny holes covered by fur.

Near Threatened

Conservation Status

Like all marine mammals, California sea lions are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). Common threats for these animals are: incidental catch and entanglement in fishing gear, gunshot wounds, or other human-caused injuries—commercial fisherman view them as a nuisance.

Interesting Facts

  • Sea lions have a total of 40-60 vibrissae (whiskers) that are supplied with muscles and nerves. They are used to find fish when the water is dark and visibility is low.
  • They can swim as fast as 40 km (25 mi) an hour.
  • They have the ability to dive as far as 274 m (899 ft), but generally they won’t dive that deep because their food is found in shallower waters.
  • Sea lions have a blubber layer that insulates and keeps them warm. Excess blubber can also function as an energy reserve. This is particularly important for males, due to their fasting during breeding season.