Again this week, Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network received reports of what someone thought was a marine mammal in distress – but wasn’t. David Hutchinson as a result shares information we’ve published in the past about “a typical behavior of sea lions that causes concerns each year,” known as “sailing.” He sent the photo, too, to help explain:
Every fall and winter, Seal Sitters’ Hotline receives calls from folks out walking West Seattle beaches who are concerned about marine mammals offshore that they feel are in distress or entangled. These reports typically turn out to be California sea lions who are regulating their body temperatures by raising flippers out of the water, referred to as “thermoregulation.”
When a single animal does this, it is called “sailing,” while if a group of sea lions is involved, it is called “rafting.” For more details on this behavior, please see the 2010 story in Seal Sitters’ Blubberblog at this link: “Sailing” sea lion sparks concern.
It is also normal behavior for a resting sea lion to just float and drift on the water’s surface without raised flippers, occasionally lifting the head to take a breath. For more information on California sea lions that visit our area during this time of year, see: About California sea lions.
Each year, marine mammals are killed by entanglement in derelict fishing gear. If you see an animal entangled in visible fishing line or net or with obvious injuries, please report this to our Hotline at 206-905-SEAL (7325).