Steller Sea Lion

A Warming Planet Jolts the Iconic Creatures of the Galápagos loading...
A Warming Planet Jolts the Iconic Creatures of the Galápagos
Species that inspired Darwin’s theory of natural selection are facing new challenges to adapt.
Watch: Why This Sea Lion Dragged a Girl Into the Sea loading...
Watch: Why This Sea Lion Dragged a Girl Into the Sea
In a dramatic video, a sea lion can be seen dragging a young girl into a marina after she and others fed it from a dock.
About Steller Sea Lion


Stellers are the largest of all sea lions and they have an appetite to match. These giant pinnipeds hunt fish, squid, octopus and, rarely, smaller seals. They are found off northern Pacific coasts from Japan to California.

Breeding Rituals

Steller sea lion breeding is one of nature's great mass spectacles. When these giants thunder ashore, their favoured beaches, called rookeries, disappear under their numbers. Young pups are sometimes crushed by the throng, unheeded by powerful males with only a single purpose in mind. Bulls (males) must establish and hold a beach territory in order to breed. Most do not achieve this until they are nine or ten years of age.

Females begin to reproduce at about five years of age and typically have one pup per year. Sea lion mothers care for their young and recognise them by a keen sense of smell. Females slip into the sea to hunt and return to their young with the day's catch—identifying their own offspring by touch and scent.


These animals are social and also gather at various times throughout the year when mating and breeding are not taking place. Even in crowds, the big bulls are unmistakable—they are three times larger than females.

Population Decline

Most Steller sea lion populations declined markedly in the 1980s and 1990s, even though the animals are protected. Scientists are unsure what factor or combination of factors was responsible for the decline.

Fast Facts:

Common Name: Steller Sea Lion
Scientific Name: Eumetopias jubatus
Type: Mammals
Diet: Carnivores|
Group Name: Raft (in water), colony (on land)
Average Life Span: 18 years (males); 30 years (females)


Never miss a Nat Geo moment

Your email address
We use our own and third-party cookies to improve our services, personalise your advertising and remember your preferences. If you continue browsing, or click on the accept button on this banner, we understand that you accept the use of cookies on our website. For more information visit our Cookies Policy AcceptClose cookie policy overlay