California Sea Lion

California Sea Lion

Zalophus californianus

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Quick Facts
Body Length:
Male: 6.5 to 9 feet; Female 5 to 6.5 feet
Males: 450 to 1200 lbs; females: 110 to 350 lbs
Wild diet: Fish, squid, and octopus
Zoo Diet: Herring, capelin, and squid
Distribution: West Coast of North America from Vancouver, Canada to Baja, Mexico
Habitat: Rocky beaches and coastal waters

At home in the sea

California sea lions are well adapted for life in the water. Their body is smooth and streamlined. Their torpedo shape lets them swim with little resistance, and their long front flippers propel them through the water with great power---almost as if they were flying. Sea lions have shorter rear flippers for steering, which enable them to make quick, sharp turns. Their nostrils are normally closed to keep out water, and they must foluntarily flex small muscles to open their nostrils to breathe. Like all pinnipeds, sea lions are warm-blooded (just like us!), so they have a thick coat of fur and a heavy layer of fat under their skin to keep them warm in cold water. 



California sea lions are are sexually dimorphic (2 distinct gender forms); Males are larger and darker and have a crest on the forehead. California sea lions are dark, chestnut brown. They have thick fur and external ear flaps. The weight of their bodies can be supported by front flippers that are large, furless, and without claws.

Status in the Wild

California sea lions are not threatened in the wild and they are protected by the United States Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, as amended. Their range extends south from Vancouver Island, British Columbia to the southern tip of Baja California in Mexico. There is also a relatively small population in the Galapagos Islands.

Conservation Programs

Listed as of "least concern" on the IUCN Red List (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources)

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