Sea Lions

Article appears courtesy of the Rocky Point Times.
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There are five different kinds of sea lions in the world. The species shown in the photograph is the California sea lion, which is found all along the Pacific Coast, from Mexico to British Columbia and on the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador. Male California sea lions weigh as much as 600 pounds (272kg) and are up to 8 feet (2.4 m) long. Female California sea lions weigh up to 200 pounds (91 kg) and are up to 6 feet (1.8m) long.

California sea lions have exceptional memories and can be trained to be performers at circuses and aquarium shows. They can jump through hoops, balance balls on their noses, play volleyball, or give children a kiss.

Sea lions are the most playful of all the 33 members of the seal family. They jump and chase each other through the ocean. They body surf by riding the crest of the waves or gliding into shore ahead of the waves. They play with seaweed and toss fish into the air, then catch them in their open mouths.

Sea lions spend most of their time in the ocean. They can dive to depths of 1200 feet (366m) and stay under water for up to twenty minutes. They even sleep under water and rise to the surface only to breathe. They catch fish by sight and with their stiff whiskers! A sea lion’s whiskers are so sensitive to touch that when they touch a fish, the sea lion grabs it with its sharp teeth. Sea lions eat 15 to 20 pounds (7-9 kg) of fish each day.

Sea lions breeding ground are called rookeries. The female (cow) gives birth to one pup every year. The pups can move around and walk on their flippers within 30 minutes after birth. California sea lions weigh 12 to 14 pounds (5.4 – 6.4 kg) at birth and are about 30 inches (76 cm) long.

Sharks and killer whales are natural enemies of sea lions. People, however, are sea lion’s major enemies. For centuries, humans have killed sea lions for their blubber and skin or even for dog food. Since 1972, it has been against the law in the U.S. to kill or capture any marine mammals except by special permission. People still cause problems for sea lions, however, because the animals become entangled in fishing nets and then starve to death.

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