This footage was taken on Hornby Island in 2016. Some friends and I take an annual trip there to dive with the local colony of Steller sea lions. These animals can be very intimidating and sometimes overwhelming, but they have a unique playfulness and a curiosity that I absolutely love and I can't wait to get into the water with them. The Steller sea lion is the largest of the eared seal (Otariidae). They are on the "near endangered" list. Females can be range from 7.5ft-9.5ft and can weigh 550lbs-770lbs while the males can be 9ft-10.7ft long and can weight from 990lbs-2,470lbs. Like I said before, they can be quite intimidating with their size, strength, and intelligence.

The colony of Stellar sea lions that we dived with are familiar with divers on a regular bases. So, it could be argued (just an opinion) that they are a little more comfortable in the water around divers and maybe less threatened by us. I have dived with a colony that was less visited further north of Hornby Island and just by observation, they seemed a little more cautious or adept at keeping their distance from us. Most of our encounters were with younger juveniles or who are quite playful with only the occasional presence of a larger adult sea lion who would hang out for a little bit and then leave us. In this video I try to show a little bit of their curiosity, playfulness, mischievousness and how gentle they are choosing to be with me. I also try to show how that playfulness can be a bit overwhelming at times. These animals are wild and can be dangerous. By my observation, their seems to be a "give and take" of trust with these sea lions. As a rule of thumb, I do my best to NOT touch animals in the wild and to give them the respect that they deserve, but there is arguably a time and place for everything and these Stellar sea lions will do whatever they can to get you to interact with them.

You will see me put my fist out for them to naw on or test bite. I did this because they were already testing out the rest of my limbs and I felt that I had a little more control (with a 1000lb animal, lol) and could pull away when it started to be too hard. In a short amount of time, the individual sea lions I did this with seemed to get the idea that what they were doing was not liked or was not ok. Visa versa, when I moved my hand to quick to scratch their chin, they would quickly move their head out of the way. Unless I moved slow after they where done testing my hand they would not allow that interaction. In a short period, it seemed like we established some rules for play. But this was not an absolute and everyone sea lion was slightly different for the most part. As I said before, I do NOT advise anyone to touch wild animals and to asses their own situations when interaction is inevitable. I hope you enjoy my video and you see what truly amazing animals the Steller sea lions are and why they deserve our protection. Thank you.