link to AFSC home page
Mobile users can use the Site Map to access the principal pages

link to AFSC home page link to NMFS home page link to NOAA home page

Steller sea lion bull photo taken by Rolf Ream The Steller sea lion (Eumetopias jubatus) is the largest member of the Otariid (eared seal) family. Males may be up to 325 cm (10-11 ft) in length and can weigh up to 1,100 kg (2,400 lb). Females are smaller than males, 240-290 cm (7.5-9.5 ft) in length and up to 350 kg (770 lb) in mass. Males and females are light buff to reddish brown and slightly darker on the chest and abdomen; naked parts of the skin are black. Wet animals usually appear darker than dry ones. Pups are about 1 m (3.3 ft) in length and 16-23 kg (35-50 lb) at birth and grow to about 30-40 kg (65-90 lb) after 6-10 weeks. Pups are dark brown to black until 4 to 6 months old when they molt to a lighter brown. By the end of their second year, pups have taken on the same pelage color as adults.

Bulls become mature between 3 and 8 years of age, but typically are not massive enough to hold territory successfully until 9 or 10 years old. Females reproduce for the first time at 4 to 6 years of age, bearing at most a single pup each year. Pups are born from late May through early July, with peak numbers of births during the second or third week of June. Females stay with their pups for about 9 days before beginning a regular routine of foraging trips to sea. Females mate 11 to 14 days after giving birth. Implantation takes place in late September or early October, after a 3-4 month delay. Weaning is not sharply defined as it is for most other pinniped species, but probably takes place gradually during the winter and spring prior to the following breeding season. It is not uncommon to observe 1- or 2-year-old sea lions suckling from an adult female.

Steller sea lion are distributed across the North Pacific Ocean rim from northern Hokkaido, Japan, through the Kuril Islands, Okhotsk Sea, and Commander Islands in Russia, the Aleutian Islands, central Bering Sea, and southern coast of Alaska, and south to the Channel Islands off California. During the May-to-July breeding season, Steller sea lions congregate at more that 40 rookeries, where adult males defend territories, pups are born, and mating takes place. Non-reproductive animals congregate to rest at more than 200 haul-out sites where little or no breeding takes place. Sea lions continue to gather at both rookeries and haul-out sites outside of the breeding season.  

The world population of Steller sea lions includes two stocks divided at 144° W longitude (Cape Suckling, just east of Prince William Sound, Alaska). The stock differentiation is based primarily on differences in mitochondrial DNA, but also on differing population trends in the two regions.

Steller sea lions are opportunistic predators, feeding primarily of a wide variety of fishes and cephalopods. Prey varies geographically and seasonally. Some of the more important prey species in Alaska include walleye pollock (Theragra chalcogramma), Atka mackerel (Pleurogrammus monopterygius), Pacific herring (Clupea harengus), Capelin (Mallotus villosus), Pacific sand lance (Ammodytes hexapterus), Pacific cod (Gadus macrocephalus), and salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.). Steller sea lions have been known to prey on harbor seal, fur seal, ringed seal, and possibly sea otter pups, but this would represent only a supplemental component to the diet.



            | Home | Site Map | Contact Us | Webmaster | Privacy | Disclaimer | Accessibility | Print |           doc logo