Monterey Bay

Visitors to Monterey Bay quickly find their ears tuning to unusual sounds at the shore. What is that roar? Did I just hear a bark?

Sea lions are easily seen under Fisherman’s Wharf, on wood platforms which appear to be custom-made for them.  When the water warms more than they’re accustomed to, they engage in jugging, and raise their flippers out of the water as they loll in the surf to cool off. When the water is too chilly, they absorb the sun’s heat with flippers in the air. 

They’re agile swimmers, diving as far as 1,760 feet.  Males weigh 850 pounds; females are around 220 pounds. If you’re lucky enough to get out in a kayak on Monterey Bay, which is a National Marine Sanctuary, these curious creatures might pop up out of the water to examine you from a safe distance.  And that bark? It easily travels across the water and is used to organize large groups.  They eat squid, fish and octopus, and are themselves a source of food for killer whales and sharks.

Much quieter than the barking sea lions, harbor seals are easily spotted when they’re hauled out on rocks. They typically come ashore only to breed and molt. Their favorite foods include fish, squid, octopus and crustaceans.  A fun fact: they can sleep with their noses just at the surface,  a position called “bottling” by the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Females are 290 pounds, while males are 370 pounds.

A much larger and rarer visitor comes into the Bay. The southern range of the Steller Sea Lion is Northern California. They’re less likely to be seen near shore and people. Males top out around 2,500 pounds and measure 11 feet. Females are 1,000 pounds and are 9 feet long.  Also known as the Northern Sea Lions, they are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.  

This animal was seen on a platform below the Fisherman’s Wharf.  They are the largest member of the Otariidae or “eared seals” family. When they vocalize, it sounds more like a roar than a bark. Night time eaters, their diet includes a smorgasbord of what’s on offer in the sea (e.g. fish, squid, and octopus), and depends on the season, where they are in the life cycle, and the relative abundance of prey.

Published by Mashabu

Earnest observer of our natural world.

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