Wildlife Fact Sheets

California Sea Lion

California Sea Lion

California Sea Lion

Zalophus californianus

  • Life Span
    We can live 15-20 years in the wild.
  • Habitat
    You can find me in the ocean, on rocky beaches and on man-made structures like jetties and docks.
  • Range
    You can find me from British Columbia in Canada to Baja California in Mexico, and in the Galapagos islands.
  • Preferred Food
    I’m not picky: I eat fish like rockfish and anchovies, krill and invertebrates like squid.


You might hear me before you see me—we’re a pretty loud bunch. We’re one of the noisiest of the pinniped species, which include seals, sea lions and walruses. We will bleat, growl, roar and bark to send warning signals, attract mates and more. Mothers even used specialized calls for their young: when the cow returns from hunting for food, she will vocalize a unique call to her offspring, who will follow the sound of her voice. The cow will smell the pup to make sure it’s the right one, and proceed to feed it.

Males use sound to defend their territory, too. We will bark on land and underwater to fend off intruders and show off to other males in the area. Body movements are just as important: we will lunge at other males’ flippers, shake our heads and stare at opponents to send the maximum “don’t mess with me” vibes.


Did You Know?

Ever wonder how you can tell the difference between a sea lion and a seal? Seals have ear holes, while I have visible ear flaps. Also, I use my fore-flippers to propel me through the water and “walk” on land, where seals scoot along on their bellies on land.

Status and Conservation

I’m a speed demon, and can swim up to 25 miles per hour underwater—that’s faster than any other sea lion or seal! That’s because I have a streamlined, torpedo-shaped body that helps me power through the water with the help of my strong front flippers. Underwater, my back flippers help me steer, and on land they help push me forward as I “walk”. Although I’m much more graceful when I swim, trust me.

I have a thick layer of blubber to help keep me warm while I swim. I also have fur that traps water and holds it close to my body to serve as another protective layer. Sometimes these heating methods are a little too effective, and I can overheat! When that happens, I’ll dip a flipper in the water or toss sand over my back to cool off.

Fast Facts


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