Marine Mammals

PROMO Intro Steller sea lion by RL 512x219

The seals and sea lions that use Oregon Islands NWR are known collectively as pinnipeds. Pinniped means "fin foot" in Latin and describes both the "eared" and "true" seals. These animals can be distinguished from one another by a few notable features. True seals have small front flippers, large hind flippers and no ear flaps, while eared seals such as sea lions have ear flaps and large front and hind flippers, allowing them greater maneuverability on land. Both eat a variety of fish and crustaceans.

  • Harbor Seal

    PROMO List Harbor seals 150x118

    Harbor Seals are plentiful along the Oregon coast, often found lounging near bays, estuaries, and on sandy beaches and mudflats. Being true seals, they lack external ear flaps and can only move on land by flopping along on their bellies, called "galumphing". Reaching up to six feet in length and weighing close to 300 pounds, Harbor Seals are year-round residents here, giving birth to pups in April and May. 

  • California Sea Lion

    PROMO List Cali Sea lion by ODFW 150x118

    Loud and social, thickly huddled groups of California Sea Lions are a salient sight (and sound) on the rocks of Oregon Islands NWR. North of southern California, the hauling-out grounds are occupied by males only, who migrate there for the winter; the females and pups remain in California all year. Males may grow to 850 pounds and reach seven feet in length. The bony bump on top of their skulls, known as the sagittal crest, is much less pronounced in Steller Sea Lions—a useful field mark. The main haulout areas along the Oregon coast are in the Columbia River near Astoria, Newport's Historic Bayfront, and Shell Island of Simpson Reef.

  • Steller Sea Lion

    PROMO List steller sea lion by ODFW 150x118

    Steller Sea Lions exemplify the leonine aspect of their name. Roaring rather than barking, possessing a thick golden pelage reminiscent of a mane, these pinnipeds spend the lion's share of their time offshore, or hauled out on remote, unpopulated beaches. Adult Steller males weigh more than a ton and grow to eleven feet; females are similar in length but weigh less than half as much. Up until December 2013, Steller Sea Lions were a federally threatened species in Oregon; they remain so in the Aleutian Islands of Alaskatheir main concentration.

    Get an up-close look at the world's largest eared seal

  • Northern Elephant Seal

    PROMO List Elephant seal by Frank Schulenberg 150x118

    Northern Elephant Seals are superlative creatures. One of the largest true seals—second only to the Southern Elephant Seal in sizethe Northern males reach 13 feet in length and weigh up to 5,000 pounds. They make foraging dives to depths of 3,000 feet in pursuit of squid, sharks, rays and ratfish. During the breeding season, Northern Elephant Seals live on offshore island beaches and a few remote spots on the mainland. Battle-scarred males with trunk-like proboscises establish territories and guard harems of females—up to a hundred individuals to one successful bullfrom rival suitors. Outside of this procreative drama, the elephant seal lives well offshore.