Let Sleeping Lions Lie

If you have a chance, pull over at the Government Wharf in Fanny Bay and enjoy the show. The floats just off the dock are a regular haul out for California sea lions (Zalophus californianus) and are usually far enough away that the sea lions can sleep in peace while on lookers can watch without disturbing them. Occasionally they’ll jockey for position on the float and push each other around in a display of machismo which can be entertaining. Most of the time they seem to lie like large sleeping brown blobs.

Sleeping Sea Lions
A jumble of peacefully sleeping California sea lions (Zalophus californianus) on the floats at the Government Wharf in Fanny Bay, British Columbia.

I say usually, because most people are pretty happy to simply watch the sea lions and marvel at their large size and the repertoire of barks, loud burps, and other disgusting noises.

This Sunday we stopped at the wharf on our way back from Parksville. My two young children were fascinated by the sea lions and we made some interesting observations about what they were doing and the variety of sounds that they made. We had a great time looking at the jelly fish floating in the water as well. I’m not sure if it was the wildlife or the novelty of walking on the grid walkway, but we had to make a second trip down to the look at the sea lions again after returning once to the car.

It was when we were walking back the second time that a man with a small white and black dog passed us heading to the “viewing area.” I think he said something about “a show” but I’m not sure: minding a four year old and an almost three year old is an attention consuming activity. When the sea lions started barking furiously, I turned around to look.

I am not sure why he was throwing stones at these lovable lions. Perhaps he thought that people would appreciate being entertained by more active animals. Maybe he was a retired fisherman who just didn’t like competitors for his fish. I guess I will never know what his reason for doing this was.

I took a quick video but didn’t feel comfortable calling him on it with the little ones in tow. His reaction to a woman who confronted him about his behaviour suggested that it probably wouldn’t have made a difference anyway.

California sea lions (Zalophus californianus)
More sleeping California sea lions (Zalophus californianus) – you don’t need to wake them up to enjoy hours of entertainment.

So make the trip down to Fanny Bay and do some sea lion watching. It is great fun, even if they do not seem to be doing anything exciting. And if you need a refresher on the ethical guidelines for watching wildlife, visit the BC Parks Wildlife Guidelines web site for a few pointers. The sea lions will appreciate it.