EPOW - Ecology Picture of the Week

Each week a different image of our fascinating environment is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional ecologist.

24-30 September 2007

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Sea Lion on the Docks

Northern (Steller) Sea Lion (Eumetopias jubatus)
Petersburg, Alaska

Credit & Copyright: Dr. Bruce G. Marcot

Explanation:  Hauled out, and blocking our way on this dock, is a sole northern sea lion, basking in a fishing town in coastal southeast Alaska.  

Once widely distributed in breeding colonies throughout the Pacific Rim in the northern hemisphere, northern sea lions have dropped in numbers from unknown causes.  

Individuals wander widely when not breeding and can make round trips of over 2200 km over the course of many weeks.  They feed near shore and over the continental shelf, preying on a variety of fish species as well as some squid and octopus.  

Sea lions were used by First Nation people of British Columbia, Canada, for meat, pelts, and oil.  Populations plummeted from introduced diseases in the 1800s, then increased, by which time they were hunted with bounties because of their penchant of consuming the same fish that fishermen pursued.  To this day, they are reviled by some for consuming salmon in the mouth of the Columbia River and elsewhere along the Pacific Coast of North America.  

   Reeves, R. R., B. S. Stewart, and S. Leatherwood. 1992. The Sierra Club Handbook of seals and sirenians. Sierra Club Books, San Francisco, CA. 359 pp.

Next week's picture:  Where to Find Life on Mars

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