California Sea Lions – Naughty Or Nice?

Sea lions have a reputation for being comical, whimsical and downright entertaining, with their playful antics while in the water. The now infamous Pier 39 in San Francisco was taken over by sea lions in the late 1980’s and is now one of the most popular tourist attractions on the waterfront. There is even a live webcam devoted to the sea lions year round. [Take a virtual tour of San Francisco’s Pier 39].

Although the name implies that they are from California, the California Sea Lion ranges in habitat on the west coast from Mexico to British Columbia and Alaska. Their unmistakable and distinctive “bark” gives them away immediately. Anyone who is fortunate to witness them in the wild will walk away with a new appreciation of this intelligent, wild creature.

Feeding mostly on fish, the California sea lion is an agile and graceful swimmer in the water. They seem a little more clumsy on land. Sea lions differ from true seals in that they have an ear flap that covers their eardrum. They also have more prominent fore flippers than other seals.


Sharks and Orcas are the most common predators of sea lions. They have been known to jump onto small boats in an effort to avoid their predators. Sea lions themselves are carnivorous, preying on squid, clams, small mammals and fish.

Sea lions are curious and entertaining creatures. They can be comical, inquisitive and engaging. They can also, at times, be aggressive and unpredictable. They are, at best, wild creatures that should always be admired from a distance. Admire them, observe them, but respect their personal space.

If you see a sea lion holding its head high in the air, swaying side to side, and avoiding eye contact, realize that you may be too close. Back up and give them their space.

To find out more about Sea Lion identification and behavior, please check out Sea Lion Facts on the Dolphin Research Center’s website.

To see the Sea Lion’s native habitat, see the pictures below:

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