The harbor seal and sea lion colonies in La Jolla offer visitors a chance to view these pinnipeds in the wild and their natural habitat. The Sierra Club Seal Society administers a docent program to protect both the harbor seal and sea lion colonies for ecological, educational, scientific, historic, and scenic opportunities.
The group also works with city officials, educational institutions and gives presentations upon request. They are often speaking with visitors on the beach and answering questions about behavior, reproduction, and longevity. The following is one of many uplifting Sierra Club Seal Society docent stories from Robyn Davidoff.
“It was late July and more than 100 sea lions at La Jolla Point were on the rocks and beach. It was a good year with more than 53 births so far. The pups were about 4 weeks old walking on all four flippers and practiced swimming in the small pools created when the tide went out.
“I was on the rocks overlooking the point answering tourists’ questions such as How long is the gestation period (9-12 months)? What do sea lions eat (fish, squid, shellfish)? How much do they weigh (600-800 pounds)? What predators do they have?
“After explaining that each adult female has only one pup per year, the visitors asked, ‘Where are all of the moms?’ I explained that many sea lions were out to sea hunting in the kelp beds 6 miles offshore leaving their pups on the rocks huddled together in a nursery.”
“Just then I noticed a sea lion come out of the water and up onto the rocks and she began a specific call to her pup. They were far apart, perhaps 30 yards. I suggested to the visitors that if they backed up about 15 feet and gave the sea lions a clear path, they may see the mom and pup reunite.
“It was like magic. People stepped back and the mom and pup continued to call each other until they reunited with a nose touch. Once the mom confirmed that the pup was hers, she rolled over and the pup began nursing. We all were amazed to experience this natural event and we all got great photos.”
Sea lions are protected by the Marine Mammal Act and Municipal Codes. NOAA viewing guidelines suggest viewing from a distance of 50 yards. Best viewing spots are on the seawall at the Children’s Pool for harbor seals and on the sidewalk in front of the Woman’s Bridge Club at La Jolla Point for sea lions.
Sea lion pupping season started in June and it is critical that moms and pups are not disturbed, separated, or touched. Mother sea lions will abandon their pups if touched and pups are not good swimmers until they are a few months old so give them plenty of space.
If you are interested in becoming a docent, contact [email protected].