California Sea Lions

Scientific Name Zalophus californianus


When is the best time to view California Sea Lions in Monterey Bay and where is the best viewing?

California sea lions gather daily on the Coastguard jetty in Monterey Harbor.

California sea lions gather daily on the Coastguard jetty in Monterey Harbor.

California sea lions can be seen year round in Monterey Bay.  Popular spots include docks and boats around Fisherman’s Wharf and the Coastguard jetty in Monterey as well as Point Lobos Nature Reserve and Moss Landing harbor.  Sea lions may also be spotted swimming close to shore anywhere along the Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail. 

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About California Sea Lions

California sea lions are known to be intelligent, playful and a common sight in Monterey Bay. Easily identified by their brown coat, small ears, broad flippers and loud bark.  Sea lions often haul themselves out of the water on sandy beaches, rocky shores, jetties, piers or docks.

California sea lions are extremely social and often gather together in large groups.  They are fast, agile swimmers and are often seen playing, splashing and porpoising. Sea lions main predators are killer whales and sharks.

In spring California sea lions gather at the breeding areas called “rookeries”. Male sea lions (bulls) defend their beach territories while females arrive and shortly thereafter give birth to a single pup.  Within two to three weeks after giving birth, females mate with area bulls to ensure next year’s pup. At birth pups are about two and a half feet long, weigh about 13 pounds and are able to crawl around within 30 minutes of being born. Females will leave their young pup to search for food and are able to find the pup on a beach full of hundreds of pups through vocalizations and smell.  During mom’s absence, pups gather in groups called “pup-pods” and spend time sleeping, playing, exploring and swimming in the tide pools. 

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California Sea Lion Fun Facts

  • Hold their flippers out of the water to absorb heat from the sun and regulate their body temperature
  • Able to slow their heart rates when diving to allow for almost ten minutes underwater
  • The deepest dive ever recorded for a California sea lion is 1,760 feet
  • A group of sea lions may be called a harem, rookery or colony
  • A group of sea lions floating together is called a raft
  • May hunt continuously for up to 30 hours, with each dive lasting three to five minutes
  • Sea lions produce loud roars help explain why they're named after lions
  • Can swim up to 25 miles per hour

Habitat: Inhabit rocky and sandy beaches of coastal shorelines

Length: Males measure up to eight feet and females measure up to six feet.

Weight: Males weigh up to 850 lbs. Females weigh up to 220 lbs.

Diet: fish, squid, octopus and shellfish

Lifespan: less than 30 years

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