Sea lions in Los Angeles
Movie buffs can be forgiven if they believe coyotes roaming the desert yodeling above modernist rooftops are the star of LA’s wildlife, but most people within earshot of the Pacific know better, especially in the winter. when beach revelers head inland and their din is replaced by the sea barking Lions. Like their small ears, sea lions stand out and are louder, generally heavier, and more sociable than their seal cousins - the latter’s lack of outer ears is a quick way to tell them apart. Sea lions also have longer fins to propel themselves off the beach, so they are earthlings too, sometimes going as far as a mile in the urban jungles of Los Angeles.
“We call them Ocean Pups because they’re playful and on the move,” said Amber Becerra, CEO of Marine Mammal Care Center, a rescue center in Los Angeles. Their sociability partly comes from the way they are brought up. “Seals only need six months to suckle with their mother. Sea lions need more than a year.
There’s hardly a better time to spot sea lions along the southern California coast, thanks to recent pandemic beach bans that have given sea lions a chance to reclaim space, especially on long stretches of abandoned Los Angeles shores.
“We have a theory when humans stay indoors, animals thrive,” Ms Becerra said. “The rule of thumb in the wild,” she added, “is to stay at least 50 yards away from them,”
The center is open to the public. To get up close with the sea lions, make an appointment for the 11 a.m. feeding time and head to the pools out back where staff feed up to 70 “patients” a day. Puppies often show up when visitors are around, jumping like ballerinas from swimming pools. When they are sufficiently fattened and trained to fish, they are released into the Pacific.
Otherwise, it is easy to find them in the wild. Just listen to the barking. One of their most popular hangouts is a two-hour drive south of Los Angeles at La Jolla Cove, a large colony of sea lions. A cliff path along the shore takes you just above colonies of sea lions and up to Children’s pool Beachwhere they spread out together like a giant shag rug.
King’s Harbor in Redondo Beach has so many sea lions that it has become a point of contention among landowners, fishermen and conservationists.