Our Rowdy Neighbors, the Sea Lions

By , May 6, 2010

The neighbors are at it again. Loud parties at all hours, noisy fights that threaten to spill across the property line, intimidating stares . . . and absolutely no chance of negotiation or compromise. They do what they want, and if we don’t like it, that’s tough. But, what else would one expect from a pod of Stellar sea lions?

We live within a couple of miles of Gran Point across Lynn Canal from our homestead. Gran Point is a major sea lion haul out. In all but the loudest storms we can hear their interactions: roars, burps, howls, and squawks (Stellars roar rather than “bark” as the more familiar California sea lion does). Some days, when the wind’s right, we can even smell them.

We see sea lions so often that we rarely note them in our Wildlife Journal unless they’re doing something unusual, or interacting with humpback whales, which they often do. They pass back and forth in front of our beach most of the year, except for a brief period after mating season, when they disperse for a while.

Sea lions are like seagoing bears. And, like bears, they’re smart. They seem calculating, clever, and full of mischief. Our human neighbors, many of whom are wildlife biologists specializing in sea lions, tell me not to worry, but I’m always wary when near the water’s edge. A wild animal’s idea of a “practical joke” could be disastrous for a human.

For their part, the sea lions seem very aware of us. They often “spy hop,” rising out of the water to look around, and many times, their attention is directed toward us. They seem particularly intrigued when I climb the wind generator tower; I usually attract an audience of one to several sea lions, floating comfortably beneath me, perhaps waiting around to see if I’ll fall. This does nothing for my personal comfort.

Right now, during the herring run, the sea lions are in high gear. They roam in tightly-packed, tumbling groups in search of shoals. When they find them, all heck breaks loose, as they dive completely out of the water to pounce on their prey. This leads to squabbling or celebration—hard to tell which. It’s noisy, hectic, and a lot of fun to watch.

As ubiquitous as the sea lions are, the privilege of living so close to them isn’t lost on us. It’s pretty amazing, in fact.

See photos of sea lions and other local wildlife here.

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