Harbour Seals are members of the Phocidae family and are one of the true seal species found off Victoriaʼs waters. True seals have pin holes in the sides of their heads for ears with no external ear flaps. They also have fur covering their flippers. Sea lions have small external ear flaps and naked flippers, thus they are not considered a true seal species.
Elephant Seals are not a common sight in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, but their presence is a real treat on a few occasions from spring until winter. Both males and females occasionally rest at Race Rocks Lighthouse, spending time basking in the sun atop the rocky islands. Northern Elephant Seals occupy Pacific waters from Alaska to Mexico.
Like their relatives the Stellar Sea Lions, California Sea Lions also belong to the Otariidae family. They are a well-known species whose population extends from the Alaskan Panhandle to southern Mexico. They are most abundant from California to the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula. Females remain in locations off California and Mexico, while the males will venture further north to places like Race Rocks Lighthouse near Victoria.
Steller Sea Lions are some of the noisiest (never mind smelliest), marine mammals on our coastline. They are entertaining as they growl and roar as they challenge other males for space on the rocks. Steller Sea Lions are a honey-brown colour with large, dark brown flippers.
River Otters are members of the muskrat family and occupy both sea and freshwater habitats along the Pacific coast and throughout North America. They prefer to be near shore or inland waters, as they are more at home on land than they are in the water. River Otters have long, slender bodies, with long tails that they use for steering while they swim.
The cuddly-looking Sea Otter is the smallest of all marine mammals. They can grow to over 1.5m (5 feet), and can weigh a healthy 36kg (80 pounds). They are true marine mammals, spending almost their entire lives in the water, even giving birth while at sea. Because Sea Otters spend so much time in cold waters, they have a very dense layer of fur as opposed to a thick blubber layer like whales, sea lions and seals.