“…The Seal or Phoca are found here in great numbers, and as far up the Columbia as the great Falls, above which there are none,” wrote William Clark on February 23, 1806.
The seals which Clark observed were likely Harbor Seals (Phoca vitulina richardii). Today, Pacific Harbor Seals share the waters of the lower Columbia River, from Clatsop Spit all the way upstream past the Bonneville Dam, with California Sea Lions and the Stella Sea Lion.
What’s the difference between seals and sea lions? According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, “Sea Lions are brown, bark loudly, “walk” on land using large flippers, and have visible ear flaps. Seals have smaller flippers, wriggle on their bellies on land, and lack visible ear flaps.”
Seals are also quieter, just making soft grunts, and they spend more solitary time in the wild and less time “socializing” like Sea Lions, which congregate in large groups called herds.
Ultimately, most people would say that seals are also a lot cuter!
Last updated: November 14, 2018