For months people have been wondering what has happened to the sea lions that have made their home on Pier 39 for years in San Francisco. The mystery may be solved, for those who still wonder. Steve Saubert, co-owner of the Sea Lion Caves in Florence, Oregon, reports spotting huge pods of sea lions, up to 200-300 yards across, off the coast. It is estimated that two to three thousand of the sea lions have shown up recently. A large group of 500 have made their homes in the caves since early January, 2010. Hundreds more sea lions have been spotted up and down the Oregon coast so far this year.
California Sea Lions (Zalophus californianus) are marine mammals from the genus, pinnipeds. Sea Lions live in the water most of the time, but when breeding and resting can be found on the shoreline rocks, as well as fishing piers and docks all along the coast. Pinniped, which means “fin foot” in Latin, includes sea lions, walruses, and seals. There are different kinds of sea lions along the Pacific Coast, including the California Sea Lion, the Stellar Sea Lion, the Harbor Seal, and the Elephant Seal. To learn more about the seals, go to the following website.
Each of the species breed in the winter generally in the waters off Southern California, and give birth to their pups (usually just one) in the spring. As with all herding animals, the cows of the pod give birth around the same time in the spring along the beaches of North America. During the winter when the seas are rough and stormy, the seals generally stay in the caves or in protected areas along the shore. When the sun comes out, they can be found lounging along the shore or on the rocks.
Though we live in a metropolitan region and a large urban area, our proximity to the Pacific Ocean and our location on the San Francisco Bay provide a wealth of opportunities for us to observe and understand more about the large variety of life that lives in and around the ocean. We may sometimes forget both the power and fragility of the oceans and waterways, and the animal life whose habitat is based there. It is important to respect both the sea and the animals by learning how to behave when we are observing the sea creatures. As grandparents, it is one of our responsibilities to help instill this respect and to enjoy the beauty of both. When we visit the ocean, we know to observe the rule, “Never turn your back on the ocean.” The ocean is unpredictable, and the sneaker or rogue waves that roll into shore can catch us unawares if we are not careful. Too often I seem parents and grandparents taking their children out onto the rocks and jetties. It seems they are not aware of the potential danger. When we go to observe the sea lions along the shore, we need to remember to respect their habitat, and stay a safe distance away from these powerful and beautiful creatures. And to always keep our eyes on the ocean and ourselves a safely out of harms way. While climbing on the rocks and logs can be fun, it can also be quite dangerous.
This is a good time of the year to look for the seals, but many of the California pods have headed north this year. There are pods of harbor seals and some California seals still along the California coast however. In recent years, the population of sea lions off the Pacific Coast has been growing. The age-old migration back up the coast is an annual event. Depending upon the oceanic and weather conditions, some years the mammals’ migration goes further north than in others. This year is one such year, and one which may prompt you to take a nice trip up the Northern California Coast and on into Oregon. If you do, be sure to visit the Oregon Caves in Florence, Oregon.