Letters to the Editor: There’s a way to tell sea lions from seals!

OUR READERS WRITE: Letters to the Editor

• There’s a way to tell sea lions from seals!

Art Cooley pointed out in his letter in the May 1

La Jolla Light

that sea lions can climb higher up on the rocks than harbor seals can, and that the photo of the pinniped up on a rock north of the Scripps Pier in the April 24 letter to the


was undoubtedly a sea lion and not a seal.

As a former marine biology research scientist, I took a course in marine mammals from Dr. Carl Hubbs as a graduate student at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO), and I learned how to tell the difference between the two species. Hubbs was a famous ichthyologist (fish specialist), but he also studied marine mammals and taught the course back in the 1950s and ’60s.

I learned (and also observed in nature) that sea lions are able to “walk” or “scoot along” on the sand and rocks by moving both their front flippers and their back flippers back-and-forth, and they can exhibit an upright posture. Seals, on the other hand, can only propel themselves with their front flippers with their back flippers dragging behind them when they “walk” on the beach, exhibiting a more prone position than sea lions. Sea lions are definitely more maneuverable on land than seals are.

Also, if you look closely, you can see that sea lions have small external ears protruding from the sides of their heads, whereas seals have no external ears, just small holes on each side of their head where the ears should be.

Now you know what to look for when you are observing pinnipeds in nature to distinguish between seals and sea lions!

— Dr. Linda Haithcock Pequegnat

La Jolla

• I’m rooting for leash-free dog hours at La Jolla beaches

In response to “Happiness is Dogs on the beach,” like the letter-writer Nancy, a highlight of my day is walking along the beach early in the morning with my two friendly Schnauzers. On Friday, May 2 at 8 a.m., a lifeguard instructed me to leash my dogs as I was walking along the northern end of WindanSea Beach, heading toward Marine Beach.

I asked if I was receiving a warning? His answer was to ask for identification and he proceeded to write a citation. When I inquired how much it would cost, he replied that he didn’t know and that I would receive that information in the mail. He then told me about the unleashed dog parks available — all nearly a 30-minute drive from WindanSea Beach.

Factoring in driving and walking time would make this a two-hour outing. I love my dogs and walk them twice a day, but I have a life, too!

I was thinking the same thing Nancy proposes, providing La Jolla residents and their dogs time on a portion of the beach, early in the morning, say 6:30-8.30 a.m.

— Kay Douglas

La Jolla

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