Critter Post 1: Steller Sea Lion

Sea lions
Steller Sea Lions on a nav marker

As many of you know, the wildlife we see on our voyages is one the big highlights of sailing for us. So I’ve decided to try out a few posts exclusively about critters. This is mostly inspired by fellow birder, sailor, and blogger Chris of s/v Take It Easy, who writes informative posts about bird species that she sees, accompanied by her excellent photos. After spending a recent afternoon watching sea lions on a navigation marker outside a town in Alaska (see photo above), I’ve decided to make the subject of my first Critter Post the Steller Sea Lion.

Basic Facts:

The Steller Sea Lion is one of the largest pinnipeds, smaller only than the walrus and the two species of elephant seal. They have considerable sexual dimorphism – the males have much wider chests and necks than the females and they average about 10 feet in length and 1,200 lbs in weight, while the females come in at a mere 8 feet and 580 lbs. This sea lion is named after the naturalist Georg Steller, who first described them in 1741 on his voyage to Alaska with Vitus Bering. (Steller described many other animals in Alaska and Kamchatka, including a northern relative of the manatee, brought to extinction by over-hunting only 25 years after discovery.) Steller Sea Lions are listed as Near Threatened and in recent decades have experienced large, unexplained population declines over much of their Alaskan range.


From the Sea of Okhotsk in Russia, across the Gulf of Alaska, and south to Central California.


Mostly fish – pollock, mackerel, herring, halibut, cod, rockfish, sculpin. They also sometimes prey on sea otter pups and harbor seals.

Food for:

Steller Sea Lions don’t have many predators, but orcas and white sharks have preyed on them.

Breeding behavior:

Male Steller Sea Lions establish and defend territories on rookeries, which are usually isolated beaches. They breed with the females that choose their territories, so that, while they breed with multiple females, it’s not really considered a harem. The males do not eat during the breeding season. After birth, the pups remain with their mothers for as long as four years.

Sea lions

19 thoughts on “Critter Post 1: Steller Sea Lion

  1. That is so great that you are heading North again, we just left Prince Rupert, on our way to Ketchikan, maybe we will meet somewhere?? I would love to see you , our boat is sv Curtsy, we will watch for you later on, MEJAN and Bert

    1. It’d be great to see you in an anchorage somewhere! We’re still in Petersburg waiting on parts… long story… so it sounds like you’ll catch us up! I’ll send you an email.
      Happy sailing!

  2. Ellen: You and Seth really didn’t have to go to Alaska to see seals on a buoy! There is one in Puget Sound, just off the southeastern inlet to Bainbridge island. Every Time I visited Ann’s brother and sister-law I borrowed their dinghy and rowed out to converse with the seals: always at least two sunning themselves.

    I do enjoy your continuing log.

    Felix Kloman 61 Ely’s Ferry Road Lyme, CT 06371 Tel: 860-434-5356 Email:

    1. Hi Felix,
      I’m glad you’re still enjoying the blog – I didn’t realize Ann’s relatives lived so near to where we were this winter! Hope things are going well in Maine, gearing up for the summer season!
      All the best,

  3. Yeah! Your first Critter’s post! Well done Ellen. They look bigger than our Aus Fur Seals too. Good that your first post is about a near threatened specie. We have a lot to answer for. Thanks for the mention too!

  4. Ellen, another lovely post! We love the Galapagos sea lions (the smallest fur sea lions) – so playful and graceful agility in the water. Certainly wouldn’t want one of the big male Stellar sea lions darting toward me and then hovering 2 inches from my dive mask!!!

    1. Thanks, you two! And yes, I think I’d rather dive with Galapagos sea lions than these guys… though we do have friends in the Aleutians who see the Steller sea lions through dive masks pretty often!!

  5. Yeah your first Critters’ post! Good you started with a near threatened specie. We have a lot to answer for…. They are big, bigger than the Aus Fur Seals too. I liked your ‘Food for’ section. Thanks for the kind mention too, Ellen😊.

    1. Thanks so much, Chris! Glad you enjoyed it! And thanks for the inspiration with all your great bird posts 🙂

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