The Steller (or northern) sea lion is an impressive animal. Males reach their full size at around age eight, and at that point, can weigh nearly 1,300 pounds. This makes it even more impressive that they are able to move around on land, appearing to “walk,” by scooting along on their gigantic flippers. Female Steller sea lions are not a whole lot shorter than males, but they weigh much less. They are called “lions” because, not unlike the lions of Africa, their necks and shoulders are disproportionately larger than the rest of their bodies. Sea lions gather in massive groups on rookeries during the summer. Rookeries are exposed rocky outcroppings, where the animals bask in the sun and occasionally scoot down into the water to feed. Males are very competitive for breeding females, and although male sea lions are capable of breeding at around age three, many don’t actually get to do so until they are several years older due to competition with older, larger males.
Where to find them:
In Alaska, Steller sea lions are found throughout the state’s southern coastal region, from the Aleutian Islands and Bering Sea west and south down the length of the Inside Passage. They are also found in Japan, Russia, British Columbia and south to California, though a majority of the world population of Steller sea lions is found in Alaska.
When to come:
Steller sea lions can be seen in summer or winter, though they are a bit easier to come by in summer. In winter, they seek out more secluded areas. Steller sea lions can travel vast distances – one was tracked from Kodiak Island all the way to Ketchikan in the Inside Passage, a journey of more than 900 miles.