Fun anecdote about California sea lions

California sea lions fighting

Recently, I was cleaning my desk and going through stacks of papers and discovered the interview notes from my very first article on California sea lions. Wow, time flies, I wrote the first column for Easy Reader almost two years ago!

For that first story, I interviewed Fullerton College professor and California sea lion researcher Carolyn Heath. She told me this great anecdote that I didn’t have room for in the article, but is worth retelling here.

During breeding season, the biggest and strongest males set up rookeries along the Channel Islands. This process leaves younger males out of luck and many sit breeding season out until they are stronger and have a shot battling the biggest males who can weigh up to 850 pounds. But some sub-adult males aren’t willing to be left out and use a sneaky trick to get in on the action.

You see, young male sea lions and female sea lions look exactly alike and young males use this similarity to their advantage. Heath explained that young males sneak into the rookery when the dominant male is “occupied,” and proceed to live it up with the ladies as long as they can get away with it. During her observations of the rookeries, Heath has seen young males do this and once they are busted by the dominant male, they quickly launch into an Oscar worthy performance acting like they really are female until they can slip away.

Young male sea lions are smart enough to enjoy breeding season and aren’t too proud to pretend to be female to avoid getting their ass kicked. Now that is non-human intelligence!

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