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California Sea Lion

Scientific Name:
Zalophus c. californianus


Pacific coast of Canada south to Baja California, Mexico

Pacific Ocean

Fish, squid, octopi, crabs, clams, and lobsters

Males (called bulls) can reach up to 8 feet (2.5 m) long. Females are up to 6.5 feet (2 m) long.

Males 441-662 lbs / Females 110-221 lbs.

Every spring, sea lions gather on islands in southern California and Baja California in Mexico. After the pups are born in June and July, adult males leave the females and pups and begin moving to their wintering grounds in the Pacific Northwest.

13-25 years

General Description:
Sea lions, unlike seals, have small external flaps on their ears. They swim using their front legs, which work like flippers. To prevent water from entering the lungs, slits on the nostrils close when the sea lion goes underwater. Sea lions have a thick layer of fat, short, thick fur that is dark brown to buff-colored, and its dog-like head. The whiskers help the sea lion's sense of touch.

Sea lions have special adaptations for swimming underwater, including flexible bodies and flippers. They can dive to depths of 820 feet. The record for a human diver without special equipment (free diving) is 400 feet. They can stay underwater without breathing for almost three quarters of an hour compared to a record 14 minutes for a human. Sea lions are fast swimmers and can go up to 25 mph (40 kph). They are also very fast on land. "Walking" with all four flippers, a sea lion can go faster over a rough beach than a running man.

Did you know? The California sea lion makes a variety of sounds, including a roaring noise like a lion. They also bark and honk like a horn. Males bark frequently when defending their territories. If you see bursts of bubbles rising to the surface you are watching a sea lion bark underwater. Population numbers are increasing. Over 200,000 sea lions are estimated to live in the wild.

Where can you find them? Zoos and aquariums, the Pacific coast of North America. Channel Islands National Park in California


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El Paso's Zoo Mission
Our mission is to celebrate the value of animals and natural resources and to create opportunities for people to rediscover their connection to nature.