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Steller Sea Lion Facts

Rita Putatunda
The Steller Sea Lion is found in the northern Pacific region. It has been named after George Wilhelm Steller, who was the first person to describe this species. This mammal has been attracting quite lot of attention recently, due to the considerable and unexplained reduction in their numbers in Alaska.
The Steller Sea Lion or the Northern Sea Lion belongs to the Otariidae family, also known as eared seal. It has external ears, which are closed when it goes into the water, while its flippers or hind feet point towards the front, quite in contrast to the true seal, or Phocidae, which is earless while the flippers point towards the back.
Amongst the otariids, the Steller Sea Lion is the largest in size, while amongst the pinnipeds, which means fin-footed, it is the fourth largest. The habitat of this mammal is the coastal regions of northern Pacific. They gather on haulouts and rookeries when they are not in the water.
The average male is 9 feet long and weighs about 1,500 lbs, while the female is about 7 feet long, weighing around 600 lbs. A newborn pup is about 3 feet long, and weighs around 45 lbs.
They have bulging, large eyes, with noses that are square and flat. The whiskers are long, which are used for navigation as well as finding prey. With age, the male grows a mane made of coarse, long hair. They use their fore-flippers for swimming, and are very agile on land.
The adult is blond to light-brown in color, with a darkening of the color on the undersides and around the flippers. At birth, the color of the pups is dark brown. They take on a light-grayish tan when in the water or are wet.
Steller Sea Lions eat a wide variety of fish, such as rockfish, cod, salmon, pollock, and herring, along with shrimp and squid. Since the food they eat gives them enough water, they do not need to drink it. They consume their food whole, and do not chew it. They feed at night, in groups.
Generally, they are very vocal, roaring, growling, and grumbling. When the male roars, it is usually accompanied by bobbing the head up and down. The adult male establishes its territory, which it defends aggressively.
They travel up to 250 miles in order to find food. They can dive down to a depth of 600 feet, usually staying underwater for about two minutes.
It is around 3 - 7 years of age when they become sexually mature. Mating and giving birth takes place on land. It is in the month of May that the male comes to a rookery and stakes out its territory for about 60 days.
The female comes later and generally gives birth to a single pup that had been conceived the previous year. The duration of pregnancy is 11½ months, while the mother lactates for 1 - 3 years. Mating takes place soon after the birth of the pups, in June and July.
While the female can live up to the age of 30 years, the average lifespan of this creature is around 20 - 23 years.
The Steller Sea Lion's predators include us humans, killer whales, and sharks.