California Dreamin’

I headed down to Fanny Bay this week to check out the arrival of California Sea Lions (Zalophus californianus). The government wharf is an excellent place to view these magnificent marine mammals up close since they often haul out on the pontoons that act like breakwaters for the boats tied up at the dock.

California Sea Lions (Zalophus californianus)
A pair of male California Sea Lions (Zalophus californianus) enjoying the late afternoon sun at Fanny Bay, Vancouver Island, BC.

There were about a half dozen or so snoozing in the late afternoon sun when I arrived but I could see (and hear) a larger group further off that had hauled out on a nearby log boom. The second group was more active than the closer group but too far away for decent photography. I had to settle for the nearby sleeping beauties.

California Sea Lions show up at this time of year because of the coming herring spawn – they’re here for the feast. And while they wait, they spend most of their time sleeping and jostling for position. There’s often quite a lot of posturing going on!

California Sea Lion (Zalophus californianus)
The dark brown fur and lighter sagittal crest make the California Sea Lion (Zalophus californianus) distinctive. Dreaming of herring?

These are large impressive marine mammals – males can weigh up to 390 kg (850 lbs) and over 2 m (7 ‘) in length. They range in colour from chocolate brown to lighter brown and have a distinctive sagittal crest on the top of their head. This bony bump creates the appearance of a “forehead” that separates it from the Steller’s Sea Lion (the other typically seen sea lion around Vancouver Island). With age the fur on the crest becomes whiter giving the animal a bit of a punk look.

The California Sea Lions weren’t very active when I visited – I suspect that they’re saving their energy and dreaming of the herring feast to come. With a few more lions on the floats I imagine that it could get quite entertaining!

Read more about California Sea Lions at:

Use this Google Map to view the sea lions at Fanny Bay (but please don’t disturb them!):

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