Steller sea lions (Carnivora: Otariidae: Eumetopias jubatus) can be found scattered along northern Pacific coastlines from California to Japan. These ocean-dwelling mammals often congregate for breeding, feeding, and socializing. They’re perhaps most often encountered resting together on rocks and shores, basking in the warmth of the sun while they digest their food.
These carnivores mostly hunt fish, squid, and octopus, but will sometimes kill and eat smaller seals if an opportunity arises. All this meat helps them grow to 7-9 feet (2.2-2.8 m) in length and reach body weights of over one ton, making them the largest sea lion species on earth.
Although populations in northeast Asia and the Pacific Northwest have been relatively stable, numbers throughout Alaska have experienced a precipitous decline over the last few decades. Since 1997 these sea lions have been listed as “endangered.” Researchers don’t yet know the reason for their mortality but overfishing, increased predation by orcas, disease, and pollution are all being investigated.