Steller Sea Lion

Steller Sea Lion

Steller’s sea lion, Northern sea lion

Eumetopias jubatus
Population size
Life Span
20-30 years
Top speed
km/h mph 
kg lbs 
m ft 

The Steller sea lion (Eumetopias jubatus) is a near-threatened species of sea lion in the northern Pacific. It is the sole member of the genus Eumetopias and the largest of the eared seals (Otariidae). Among pinnipeds, it is inferior in size only to the walrus and the two species of elephant seals. The species is named for the naturalist Georg Wilhelm Steller, who first described them in 1741. Steller sea lion has attracted considerable attention in recent decades, owing to significant and largely unexplained declines in their numbers over an extensive portion of their northern range in Alaska.


Adult Steller sea lions are lighter in color than most sea lions, ranging from pale yellow to tawny and occasionally reddish. Pups are born almost black and remain dark in coloration for several months. Females and males both grow rapidly until the fifth year, after which female growth slows considerably. Males continue to grow until their secondary sexual traits appear in their fifth to eighth year. Males are slightly longer than females and have much wider chests, necks, and general forebody structure. Males are further distinguished from females by broader and higher foreheads, flatter snouts, and a thick mane of coarse hair around their large necks. It is fitting then that their Latin name translates roughly as "maned one with the broad forehead".




Steller sea lions inhabit the northern Californian coast, northwards to Alaska, and on the coasts of Japan and Russia. They occur in the northern Pacific Ocean’s cool waters, hauling out on the rocky coastline and on beaches.

Steller Sea Lion habitat map

Climate zones

Steller Sea Lion habitat map
Steller Sea Lion
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Habits and Lifestyle

Steller sea lions are usually social and occur in large groups on beaches or in rookeries. They are usually in groups of two to twelve, but sometimes there are up to a hundred individuals together. At sea, they are solitary or in small groups. They forage at night near the shore and in pelagic waters. Steller sea lions can travel long distances during a season and are able to dive to about 1300 feet (400 m); however, they are not considered migratory. They use the land as haul-out sites to rest, molt, mate, and give birth. They produce powerful vocalizations accompanied, in males, by vertical head bobbing.

Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Steller sea lions are carnivores (piscivores, molluscivores). They mainly eat Atka mackerel, walleye pollock, Pacific cod, and Pacific salmon. They also eat octopuses, squid, gastropods, and bivalves. They may occasionally prey on Harbor seals, Ringed seals, younger Northern fur seals, and other animals.

Mating Habits

12 months
1 pup
1-3 years

Steller sea lions have a polygynous mating system. The only males allowed to mate are the dominant males; however, younger males will sneak into rookeries and attempt to mate with the females without the dominant male noticing. The dominant males will guard and mate with as many as 30 females in one mating season. Females give birth to a single pup between mid-May and July after a gestation period that lasts for approximately 12 months. Females care for their offspring for up to 3 years, nursing them for as long as a year, sometimes longer. Males are not much involved in parental care but will guard all of the females they have mated with. Both males and females reach maturity between 3 to 6 years of age. Due to competition with other males, most bulls are unlikely to successfully breed until 8 or 10 years of age.


Population threats

Current threats to this species include boat/ship strikes, illegal hunting/shooting, contaminants/pollutants, habitat degradation, offshore gas and oil exploration, interactions (indirect and direct) with fisheries, direct impacts largely because of fishing gear (set and drift gillnets, longlines, trawls, etc.) which can hook, entangle, injure, or kill them, and indirect impacts from competition for food, possible changes to critical habitat, etc.

Population number

According to the IUCN Red List, the total Steller sea lion population size is approximately 160,867 individuals. This includes population numbers of two recognized populations of the species: Western Steller sea lion population-79,929 individuals, with 55,791 animals in the USA and 24,138 animals in Russia; Loughlin’s Steller sea lion population-approximately 80,938 individuals. Currently, Steller sea lions are classified as Near Threatened (NT), however, their numbers today are increasing.

Ecological niche

Due to their diet, Steller sea lions may have an influence on populations of fish, bivalves, gastropods, and cephalopods.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • Groups of sea lions on land are called a colony, in water, a raft, during the breeding season a rookery, and several females within a male’s territory, a harem.
  • The Steller sea lion is also known as “seawolf: “seevitchie” for the Aleuts and “sivuch” for the Russians.
  • These sea lions are able to hold their breath for as long as 40 minutes. When escaping from predators like orcas, they can put on a burst of speed of 40km/h.
  • The deepest dive for a Steller sea lion ever recorded is 424 meters (1,391 ft).
  • Steller sea lions are very vocal. One scientist described them as, “forever yelling at each other.” The pups can locate their mothers by her sounds, amongst thousands of others. Bulls roar, mothers bark, and pups bleat making rookeries very noisy.

Coloring Pages


1. Steller Sea Lion Wikipedia article -
2. Steller Sea Lion on The IUCN Red List site -

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