From October through April we have Stellar Sea Lions hanging out at Bold Bluff. They are fun to watch as they enjoy physical contact and often snooze together in groups, creating aquatic ballets. The males can weigh up to 2,500 pounds when they are fully grown. On a recent Bold Bluff hike, I was surprised to see a sea lion with numbers branded on its left side. Never have I seen this before.
At home, I sent a photo to Orca Network on Whidbey Island, WA to see if they had information on branding sea lions. Susan Berta and Howard Garrett tracked this sea lion down to Rogue Reef, OR in 2001, when scientists branded 179 sea lion pups. (Hence the “R”). This sea lion was #23 of the 179 branded that year.
Through the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) in WA state, I found out this was a male who swam to SE Alaska where he hung out for 5-6 years. Recently he has been seen on the West Coast of Vancouver Island and now at Bold Bluff, Salt Spring Island, BC. The scientist who provided this information, Pat Gearin, thinks he is heading back down to Rogue Reef, OR where he will attempt to establish a breeding territory – when he is a bit bigger – in a year or two. (Neither the USA or Canada brands marine mammals anymore).