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California Sea Lions. Noisy and Fun to Watch.

Posted by Greg on January 18, 2012

Recently, Jody and I were in San Francisco taking in the Pacific coast and getting our dose of ocean air.  Now, there are things that everyone goes to see when in San Francisco (e.g., the Golden Gate Bridge).  It’s more or less a tourist ritual.  I’ll admit that we are no exception to the rule, but Jody and I also have San Francisco ritual of our own: whenever we are in San Francisco, we make it a point to go to Fisherman’s Wharf to watch the California Sea Lions at Pier 39.

Pier 39 Sea Lion perch (Photo © Jody Diehl)

We have been fortunate in that they have been there whenever we have gone to see them, and out in fairly good numbers.  Apparently, according to some internet sources, their numbers dwindled and the sea lions became scarce toward the end of 2009. Rumor has it that they left in search of food, but for now they have made their way back to Pier 39, to the delight of tourists and locals alike.  Very noisy and quite entertaining, these coastal critters seem to be bred especially for the spotlight!  I’ve heard tell that Jody’s mother once spent more than an hour watching a pair of them take turns pushing one another off of Pier 39.  That particular spot was clearly prime sea lion real estate.  It just never gets old!

California Sea Lions are a fixture up and down the Pacific Coast of North America, from Vancouver, B.C. to the southern tip of Baja California in Mexico.  Because California Sea Lions are quite adaptable to varying environments, they can be found on natural rocks and beaches and on man-made flats, such as piers and bumper floats.

California Sea Lions on Rocky Coast of La Jolla, California(Photo ©Jody Diehl)

According to The Marine Mammal Center, California sea lions are known for their intelligence, playfulness, and noisy barking. Their color ranges from chocolate brown in males to a lighter, golden brown in females. Males reach 850 pounds (390 kg) and seven feet (2.1 m) in length. Females grow to 220 pounds (110 kg) and up to six feet (1.8 m) in length. They have a “dog-like” face, and at around five years of age, males develop a bony bump on top of their skull called a sagittal crest. The top of a male’s head often gets lighter in color with age. These members of the otariid or walking seal family have external ear flaps and large flippers that they use to ‘walk’ on land.

If you’d like to see the famous Pier 39 sea lions, you can check out the 24/7  “Sea Lion Cam”.  Alternately, we highly recommend that you look them up next time you’re in the bay area!

Happy sea lion watching!

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