They’re loud, entertaining, and really really stinky… and people will line the docks to watch them bellow, fight, play and swim around the docks. They even have their own realtime webcam. There’s no doubt about it, the Sea Lions of Pier 39 are a real crowd-pleaser.
The Sea Lions first arrived on the docks after the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989 and have not budged except for a very stressful period (for experts) in 2009 (20-years after they arrived), when most of the recorded 1,701 animals disappeared leaving behind a small handful. Some say it was because of a looming earthquake and others pointed to the end of San Francisco. However, experts now think it was likely that they left to follow food to Portland.
The numbers continue to ebb and flow as they leave and come back throughout the year. As you can see in the photos below, I managed to catch the animals on an ebb. If you want to see a photo of the pod mass, check out this page.