From December 15 to mid-May each year, California Harbor Seals can rest, give birth and nurture their newborn without interference from humans at La Jolla’s Children’s Pool.
La Jolla Village’s shoreline is home to California harbor seals (Phoca vitulina richardii) and California sea lions (Zalophus californianus). Although both species are pinnipeds (fin-footed mammals) found along the California coast, there are distinct differences between the two:
California sea lions are larger than harbor seals. Adult male California sea lions can weigh up to 800 pounds and reach lengths of up to 8 feet, while adult male harbor seals typically weigh between 150-200 pounds and are around 6 feet in length.
California sea lions have visible ear flaps, while harbor seals have small ear holes without external flaps.
California sea lions are more social and gregarious than harbor seals, often gathering in large groups on beaches or rocky shorelines. Harbor seals are more solitary and tend to haul out (rest on land) in smaller groups or alone.
California sea lions can move on land more easily than harbor seals, thanks to their longer and stronger front flippers. Harbor seals move more awkwardly on land and are better adapted to swimming and diving.
While both species feed on fish and squid, their diets differ somewhat. California sea lions are known for their ability to catch larger prey, such as salmon and herring, while harbor seals typically feed on smaller fish and invertebrates.
Despite their differences, both species are important components of California’s coastal ecosystem.