By-catch – animals that are caught accidentally or intentionally and disposed of back into the sea as they are not the target species sought by the fishermen; often dead or injured, these animals do not have the market value making it worth catching these animals for profit.
Delayed Implantation – when the fertilized egg divides into a hollow ball of cells, stops growing and floats freely in the uterus for about three months; key environmental factors will trigger the egg to be expelled or begin to develop into a fetus

Ear Flaps – also known as pinnae, these are the external ears on a sea lion; like most animals, the shape of the external ear probably helps to efficiently direct sounds into the ear canal

Entanglement – when an animal has a body part that becomes wrapped with a piece of debris that cannot be removed, often causing injury, illness or even death

Foreflippers – the front flippers of a pinniped which contain similar bones from the hand and forearm of humans; on a sea lion, these hairless flippers are used for power underwater and have no toenails; on land, these long flip

Fusiform – a sleek, streamlined body that results in less drag and a very energy-efficient design Hindflippers – the rear flippers of a pinniped; on a sea lion, these flippers are used for steering while swimming

Mammal – an animal that shares the following traits: born live, has hair, breathes air, warm-blooded and nurses their young

Marine Debris – trash that has made its way to the sea

Marine Mammal Protection Act – the U.S. law passed in 1972 to protect all marine mammals from hunt or harassment in U.S. waters; a similar laws was enacted in the Bahamas in 2005.

Sagittal Crest – the raised forehead of male sea lion

Sexual Dimorphism – when there is a significant difference between male and female animals that makes them easily recognizable as adults, such as size, weight or color

Stranding – any live marine animal that is out of its element, or outside of its survival; some examples of stranded animals include a dolphin lying on the beach, a seal that is out of its range, or an icebound whale.

Unusual Mortality Event – a marine mammal stranding that is unexpected, involves a significant die-off of any marine mammal population and demands immediate response

Vibrissae – the 40-60 whiskers found on the front of a sea lion’s muzzle

What types of habitats do sea lions like?

California sea lions can be found in temperate and tropical climates from Alaska to Southern Mexico in the Pacific Ocean. They like a variety of natural substrates – such as rocky outcroppings or sandy beaches – and man-made structures like piers, jetties and buoys. For breeding, sea lions prefer sandy beaches and rocky areas at remote locations.
How can you tell the difference between male and female sea lions?

When young, there is little difference to tell male from female sea lions. As they mature into adults, males can be substantially bigger – 2-4 times bigger! Adult females weigh around 220 lbs. whereas males on average in the wild weigh about 770 lbs. Males also tend to be a darker brown and will develop a raised prominent raised forehead called the sagittal crest by about 10 years of age. The differences in size, color and weight between male and female is called sexual dimorphism.
Where do sea lions live most of the time?

They spend most of their time in the water but come ashore to sleep, rest, breed and in some cases, molt. On longer foraging trips, they actually sleep floating upright at the surface with the nose held above the surface of the water.
How do sea lions use their whiskers?

Each vibrissae or whisker on a sea lions face is very sensitive and supplied with muscle and nerve tissue. The whiskers can be helpful to navigate in low-light conditions both on land and at sea but are sensitive enough to changes in water pressure that they can help detect a fish’s movement right in front of the sea lion’s face – that’s fast food!
What do we have in common with sea lions?

As mammals, we share the following traits: nurse our young, warm-blooded, breathe air, have hair and give birth to live young.
Why are sea lions teeth black?

Sea lions teeth are black or dark brown. Sea lions do not have enamel on their teeth like us. Instead, they have a natural bacteria that builds up when they are young and helps protect the teeth.
How fast are sea lions in the water and on land?

On land, a sea lion can rotate its front and rear flippers to be under the body to walk or run on all fours – in fact, faster than humans for short distances! In the water, because of their fusiform shape, California sea lions can move up to about 15 mph but usually swim around 6-8 mph.
How do sea lions stay warm in the sea?

Sea lions have two forms of insulation: blubber and hair. Under the skin, blubber prevents rapidly losing heat to the sea, gives the animal its fusiform shape, is an alternate fuel source when food is scarce, and provides some protection from predators who would have to penetrate through the blubber to reach important organs. On the skin, the guard hairs and underhairs along with an oil secreted by glands under the skin create a waterproof coat. If sea lions want to cool off, they raise their flippers in the air to “air dry”!
Do sea lions have toenails?

Yes, but only 3 on each of the rear flippers. These are used for scratching and grooming. To itch its whiskers, a sea lion will often rub its front flippers on its face. Sea lions do not need pedicures though as the nails wear down on their own!
What can sea lions do that dolphins can’t?

Because of their body design, sea lions are much more agile than dolphins in the water, capable of making very quick turns and twists. Sea lions also are designed to live on land, able to jump out of the water and stay on rocky shores or sandy beaches for hours or days without overheating or discomfort. A sea lion can do yoga moves like bending over backwards and touching its nose to its back or holding a front flipper stand!
How long are sea lions pregnant?

Though most pregnancies are about 11 ½ months, the fetus only develops for about 9 months. In the first 3 months, the fertilized egg floats around the uterus – called delayed implantation – until environmental factors trigger the egg to start developing into a fetus. This schedule may have come about to allow a female to get pregnant soon after giving birth to a pup but not have to commit calories to the fetus until done nursing her most recent pup. Cool!
What is a California sea lion’s lifespan?

On average, male sea lions live approximately 8 years in the wild and females 12 years. Under human care in North American zoological parks and aquariums, the life expectancy of juvenile California sea lions born is 24 years of age – that’s 2-3 times greater than in the wild!
Who is a predator of a sea lion?

Sharks and orcas are the most common predators of sea lions. An orca can strike a sea lion with its powerful tail, stunning it long enough to catch it. These whales can also slide out on sand beaches and grab a sea lion in the shallows. Larger sharks also dine on seals and sea lions. However, sea lions have also been seen eating smaller or juvenile shark species, such as Black Tips or Blues.
How does a mother recognize her pup on a beached crowded with young sea lions?

Females use a specific vocalization during the mother-pup recognition sequence. This occurs when a female returns to the rookery after feeding to locate her pup. The female emits a loud trumpeting vocalization, which elicits a bleating response from her pup. This exchange continues until mother and pup find each other. Mother and pup also recognize each other by smell and sight.
Are California sea lions threatened or endangered?

No, California sea lions are not threatened or endangered. They are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act (1972) which makes it illegal to hunt or harass any marine mammal in U.S. waters. Similarly, the Bahamas MMPA was enacted in 2005. As animals that frequent beaches along the Pacific coastline, sea lions commonly face threats by competing with humans for shore access and the hunting of valued prey such as salmon.
What are some reasons sea lions strand?

Sometimes, animals strand due to natural events. El Nino, a cyclic weather event that prevents the upwelling of nutrient- rich cold water, causes fish populations to shift offshore. As food sources move further offshore, sea lions have to travel farther to fish for prey, at times burning more calories in travelling the longer distances than calories consumed. Another natural cycle that occurs is the toxic levels of domoic acid. Certain algae produce this toxin and when it reaches high levels in algae blooms, it accumulates in toxic levels in fish such as sardines and anchovies which are common prey for sea lions. Domoic acid interferes with a sea lion’s normal neurological functioning. If a stranded sea lion has had limited exposure to domoic acid, the animal can be rehabilitated and released back into the wild. However, if a sea lion has long-term exposure causing brain damage, they are not good candidates for release as they will likely not survive.

Sometimes stranding numbers of marine mammals are so large and urgent they are called an Unusual Mortality Event. In 2014, over 1400 sea lion pups were rescued from Pacific Coast shores. Many of these animals were rehabilitated and successfully released. Guests of Dolphin Encounters donated thousands of dollars to the Sea Lion Pup Fund which was forwarded to NOAA to divide it amongst stranding centers in the U.S. that provided care for rescued sea lion pups.
What are the most common threats to sea lions in the wild?

In the wild, sea lions face a variety of natural threats and man-made challenges. Malnutrition causes the highest percentage of strandings, linked mostly to parasites and climate change due to El Niño events. The disease leptospirosis is the second most common cause of the strandings. The third most common cause is trauma, mostly caused by humans shooting the animals. Entanglement in marine debris, shark bites and propeller wounds are also factors.
How can I help sea lions?

Being respectful of sea lions is the best way to help them. Keeping the Ocean clean of marine debris – trash that has made its ways to the sea — and pollutants by REDUCING your trash, REUSING items and RECYCLING makes the sea a safer place for all marine life. Learn more about protecting marine mammals in the wild at the Watchable Wildlife Guidelines!

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