Steller Sea Lions brawling for territory

Three species of marine mammals use the rocks and islands off Cape Meares as areas to haul out of the water and raise their young. Harbor Seals, Steller Sea Lions and California Sea Lions can be seen resting on the offshore landforms, all of which belong to either Three Arch Rocks or Oregon Islands Refuges.

The seals and sea lions seen at Cape Meares 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.

Here are some tips to make watching wildlife enjoyable and rewarding:

  • Keep voices down while approaching a viewing area to avoid scaring wildlife away before you get there. Although animals may disappear when you arrive, they often return shortly if you are quiet and still.
  • Use binoculars and spotting scopes to bring animals "closer" to you without disturbing them.
  • Bring a field guide to help you identify various species and the habitats they prefer. But, remember the goal is to identify with the wildlife, not just identify it.
  • Often a close look reveals more. Look up, look down. Or peer through a hand lens to enter the world of insects. Animals come in a range of sizes and occupy a variety of niches.
  • Avoid disturbing wildlife. Remember that all coastal rocks and islands are closed to public access, and all watercraft should stay at least 500 feet away.