The Steller sea lion got its name from the German naturalist Wilhelm Steller, who described it as a "lion of the sea" because of its golden eyes and bellowing roar.
Stellers are threatened everywhere, except the population segment in Alaska, which is endangered.
Population: 40,000 to 64,000, 70 percent of which reside in Alaska.
Sea lion populations in the Gulf of Alaska are dwindling because their prey is declining as commercial fisheries increase their take. Gunshots and net entanglement are also to blame for sea lion deaths. Stellers are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act.
Survival: The average life span of Steller sea lions is about 20 to 23 years.
Steller sea lions are the largest sea lions and are often confused with California sea lions. Steller males are larger than bears, weighing up to 2,200 pounds. They can be 8 to 11 feet long. Females are a bit smaller, at 6 to 8 feet long and 600 to 800 pounds. Stellers are light to reddish-brown and bulky. Their thick necks resemble a lion's mane, which contributes to their name.
Sea lions use their long front flippers to push themselves through water and their back flippers as rudders for steering. On land, they pull their hind flippers under them and walk on all fours. Stellers usually spend most of their time onshore but dive into the sea if a boat approaches. They regularly travel great distances, sometimes up to 250 miles from home, to find food. Their diet consists of seafood such as fish, squid, and octopus, which they eat at night close to shore.
Stellers can best be seen at rookeries—shoreline areas where adults gather to mate and give birth. Rookeries are scattered along rocky shores on the Pacific coast from southern Alaska to southern California.
Steller sea lions are found in Channel Islands National Park and National Marine Sanctuary, CA; Point Reyes National Seashore, CA; Kenai Fjords National Park, AK; Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, AK; and Katmai National Park and Preserve, AK.