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Steller Sea Lions















What is taxonomy?

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).  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.  Steller sea lions have large eyes to help see in low light conditions.  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.

Interesting Facts:

  • Laws of the United States and other countries protect Steller sea lions from being hunted for their hides and blubber; even so, provisions of United States laws are still in place that continue guaranteeing subsistence hunting rights for Alaska Native peoples.
  • They are called sea lions because the heavy guard hair that surrounds their necks resembles the lion of Africa and Asia!
  • There are more than 40 locations (rookeries) that Steller sea lions gather to breed!
  • Steller sea lions are the largest of the Otariidae (eared seals)!
  • Steller sea lions can to a depth of over 400m, that is more than 1,300 feet!

What should I know about Steller sea lions?

Where do Steller sea lions live?

Steller sea lions range along the North Pacific Rim from northern Japan to California, but most are found in the Gulf of Alaska and Aleutian Islands. 

How many Steller sea lions are there?

The Steller sea lions are divided into two stocks, the Western Stock and the Eastern Stock.  The latest count is 34,775 in the Western Stock, and 31,028 in the Eastern stock.  The eastern U.  S.  stock is stable or increasing in the northern portion of its range (Southeast Alaska and British Columbia).  The remainder of the Eastern stock and all the Western stock is declining.

How can I identify a Steller sea lion?

Males and females are light buff to reddish brown and slightly darker on the chest and abdomen; naked parts of the skin are black.  Mature adult male Steller sea lions have very large necks and shoulders.  The fur on the bulls neck resembles the main on a lion.  The bull Steller sea lion can weigh more than 2,000 pounds, but a full grown female only weighs a third of that.

What do Steller sea lions eat?

Steller sea lions mainly feed on fish, such as walleye pollock, mackerel, herring, Capelin, sand lance, cod, and salmon.  Steller sea lions have been known to prey on the occasional harbor seal, fur seal, and ringed seal.

How do Steller sea lions have their young?

Females give birth to there first pup when they are four to six years old, and can give birth once a year there after.  Pups are born from late May through early July, most 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. The mother leaves to feed at sea, beginning a cycle 1-3 days at sea and 1-2 day feeding her pup.

How long do Steller sea lions live? How do they die?

Females can reach the age of 30 years , while males will live 20 years.

The 1997-98 El Ñino had adverse effects on Steller sea lions along the North America coast.  Rookeries and haulouts were affected by the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound, Alaska, in 1989.  Predators include humans, sharks, and killer whales.

Where can I find more information about Steller sea lions?

Go back.

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Information within the education website should not be cited in scientific journals or publications.

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