Vancouver can be a real jungle sometimes, with bald eagles, coyotes, black bears and even whales making appearances in the city’s beaches, forests and backyards.
But perhaps our rowdiest (and smelliest) visitors from the wild kingdom are the California sea lions that take up residence on the Steveston jetty in Richmond each fall and stay until late spring.
There are still approximately 50 sea lions – all males – lounging on the jetty right now, according to a great article in the Vancouver Sun. Though they’re not visible from land, you can spot the gentle giants via boat or on an ecotour. They’re hard to miss, in fact, weighing in at more than 300 kilograms and measuring more than two meters.
The solo males, some 2,000 in total, migrate up from California and Mexico in the fall to spend the winter in B.C. waters. When spring rolls around, they start the migration down south for breeding season, pausing each year for some R&R at the eight-kilometre-long Steveston jetty.
Fiercely territorial, the males stake a claim on the jetty rocks and spend most of the day fending off rivals, letting out ferocious grunts and occasionally slapping together their blubbery necks in a show of force. They also feast on a seafood buffet that includes octopus and squid, mackerel, rockfish and groundfish, and smaller fare like anchovies, sardines and oolichans.
It’s a good life – the only worry being pods of killer whales. The mammal-eating orcas off B.C.’s coast are known to gobble down sea lions in a few vicious bites.
Through early June, you should still be able to catch a few California sea lions before they head south for summer vacation. The good news is that the population is healthy.
There are about 200,000 California sea lions swimming the oceans today, a dramatic increase from just a few decades ago, thanks to special status afforded in the early 1970s. But be sure not to venture too close or disturb Steveston’s visiting bachelors, however, as they’re protected by law.
Has anyone seen the Steveston sea lions? Let us know!