Known for their intelligence, playfulness and noisy barking the California sea lions can be said to be well adapted to the semi-aquatic life sty le. They swim using their fore flippers and maybe agile on land. They are also able to control their hind flippers independently. They are good swimmers and can float together on the ocean surface in “rafts.”
California sea lions have a dog like face and at a young age the males develop a bony bump on top of their skull. The color of the different sexes also varies, for a male it is chocolate brown compared to females who are golden brown. The male is heavier compared to the female; a grown male can go up to 390 pounds and seven feet in length whereas female can grow up to 220 pounds and six feet in length.
These mammals mostly breed during June and July on land. Males mark territories and are often very aggressive to other males, then they use calls and loud barks to encourage other females to join them. The females arrive and segregate into harems of 3-40 individuals though it depends with the strength of the male.
Later the females give birth to pups from the previous breeding season. The weight of a pup is 6 – 9 kg. They nurse for about six months, at this period delayed impregnation takes place in this case the embryo doesn’t attach itself to the placenta, thus ensuring that the females are pregnant before the males leave.
Age classes from birth to adulthood include:
- A Pup where the age span is less than one year A yearling is 1-2 years
- A juvenile 2-4 years but it applies mainly for males.
- A sub-adult where it varies for males it is 4-8 years and for females it is 2-5 years
- An adult where a male the age span is 8 years and above and 5 and above years for a female.
The California sea lions can be found in their natural habitat in some parts of the world including Southeast Alaska to central Mexico also in the Gulf of California. Also found in fresh water for periods of time, such as near the Bonneville Dam in the Columbia River.
Focusing on their feeding habits one can say that they are opportunistic feeders, thus not picky about what they consume because they like to eat large amounts each day. Their main diet includes squids, octopus, herring, rockfish, mackerel and small sharks.
Friends and Enemies
California sea lions are very friendly to humans, but poachers, conflicting fishermen and man-made garbage threatens their existence and can lead to their decline. Also they are sometimes affected by diseases such as malnutrition, leptospirosis, cancer, pneumonia and wounds from gunshots or fishing gears. Adverse weather conditions like El-Nino and other environmental factors don’t favor their existence. Also they are preyed upon by Orcas (killer whales) and great white sharks.
Suitability as Pets
Due to their intelligence and calm nature they are easy to handle as pets. They also help biologists and researchers in their study of their overall behaviors. For the most part the interactions they have with humans have been very good. They are also a popular choice for public display in zoos, circuses and oceanariums. They are also faster learners and are trained by the United States Navy for certain military operations.