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California Sea Lion


California Sea Lion

General description


Typical coloring ranges from tan to chocolate brown and may appear black when wet. The head has a pointed muzzle and the profile resembles that of a dog. The hair is short; the flippers are long and leathery with nails. An adult male is larger weighing about 800 pounds with a sagittal crest or bump on the top of the head; the female who is considerably smaller, averages 250 pounds.

Distribution


The Californian Sea Lion has a range from the North American Pacific coast: South of Vancouver down to Baja California and the Galapagos Islands. They living on Islands, but they also live on isolated stretches of rocky beach on the mainland.

Biology


The California Sea Lions are highly adaptable to any surrounding and uses a variety of habitats. When resting on rocks or beaches they point their noses skyward and may be seen lying atop one another. When at sea they raft together, playing and leaping clear of the surface. Their long fore flippers enable them to make powerful strokes while swimming and they may reach speeds of 25 mph. They are very vocal and bark like dogs; the pups have a bleat like call. Females and pups communicate using vocalizations that are unique to the female and pup. Each pup and female have a unique scent that also identifies them. A female can locate her pup among hundreds of physically identical pups by her pup's vocalization. When she finds her pup she smells the pup as a final check that the pup is hers.

California sea lions separate their nursing and feeding activities. They nurse their pups for 1 to 2 days and then leave the pup ashore while they travel to feeding areas at sea. They spend 2 to 5 days feeding and then return to nurse the pup. During the mother's absence, the pup fasts. Females continue a pattern of going to sea for several days and nursing ashore for several days until they wean their pup. Females nurse their pups for almost a year.

Feeding


The California Sea Lion prey on schooling fish, rockfish, squid, flatfish, hake, lamprey, dogfish and salmon. This healthy population continues to flourish despite ongoing conflicts with commercial and sport fisheries.

Males are much larger than the females and can reach a length of over 8 feet and weigh 1000 pounds. Although much smaller in comparison, the females can reach a length of 6.5 feet and weight of 220 pounds. The males are probably the most vocal of all mammals, and let out a loud incessant honking bark to protect over their territories. They are faithful to their territories, and to their harems of up to 15 females.

California Sea Lions swim up to 25mph, which makes them the fastest aquatic carnivore. At night they hunt squid, octopus, abalone, and fish, and when necessary can dive to a depth of 450 feet and remain there for 20 minutes.

Danger and Protection


The Californian Seal Lion was once killed in great numbers for their blubber, which could be made into oil, and the rest could be made into dog food. Today the seal lions are protected by international treaty, which has led to a positive shift in their populations.

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