Steller sea lions use land habitat as haul-out sites for periods of rest, molting, and as rookeries for mating and pupping during the breeding season. In this case it is a resting area as they migrate along the coast spending part of their spring and fall in the area where we watch whales. Steller sea lions have been known to migrate large distances (>400 nm) but it is presumed their routes remain coastal. They are solitary hunters but are often seen small groups, but may gather in large “rafts” at the surface near rookeries and haul outs. The haul-pouts are a noisy area as they are capable of powerful vocalizations that are accompanied by a vertical head bobbing motion by males.
The last 3 years we have been starting to view sea otters in our area more regularly. They are still often a distance away, but the sightings are increasing with some “rafts” of them developing in areas near the western portion of our whale watching trips. These animals were hunted heavily for their fur and were completely wiped out of British Columbia waters. Re-introduction occurred from Alaskan otters in the 1960’s. They have long been protected and their numbers have been steadily increasing along the exposed BC coast and are now moving back into inside waters. They are unique in that they don’t have the insulating blubber that other marine mammals use to keep warm. As a result they have dense (over 1 million hairs per square inch) fur and feed heavily. They are important in balancing the eco-system. They eat a lot of sea urchins, which eat a lot of kelp. Kelp is extremely important as it provides cover for juvenile fish and is where the herring spawn in the early spring. With the increase in these otters we are seeing a greater abundance and healthier kelp forests.Visit our Blog