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Watch: Rare, 'up-close opportunity' with sea lions in Vancouver neighbourhood

A research scientist with Fisheries and Oceans Canada says their presence is a "normal situation, but may be rare" for downtown Vancouver.

A group of sea lions is attracting and entertaining people in Vancouver’s Coal Harbour neighbourhood. 

On any given day, people can be seen trying to catch a glimpse of the sea lions near the Vancouver Rowing Club. 

Their visit is a "normal situation," but is believed to be "rare" for downtown Vancouver, according to a research scientist with Fisheries and Oceans Canada. 

Strahan Tucker says people are getting a “pretty up-close opportunity" to observe wildlife interactions.

Tucker thinks the sea lions are here because they’re following food.

“Sea lions do tend to converge and aggregate around areas of high-spawning activity mid-March, but herring are starting to stage at this point,” says Tucker. 

Anna Hall, a marine mammal zoologist with Sea View Marine Sciences, is thrilled to see people on the coast getting excited about seeing the marine mammals.

"I feel that we are so lucky that right from shore, sometimes, we get the opportunity to get this glimpse into the marine world and the sea lions,” says Hall.

She describes the animals as spectacular, large and curious. 

"They're boisterous, yet different species mingling together,” she says. 

Both California sea lions and Steller sea lions were spotted. According to Hall, they are all males. 

"Mother Nature sends the male sea lions on an annual migration away from the females who are at the breeding rookeries,” she tells Glacier Media, noting the males are "hanging out" with the boys for the winter.

“We are very, very lucky here in southern B.C. that we have a number of sites that become winter haulouts and the animals will come here and spend the winter with us.”  

Sea lions are very curious, adds Hall.

“They almost remind me of dogs in the way that they will frolic with each other and interact but also tolerate human activity,” she says.

An easy way to differentiate them from seals is they have ears on top of their heads, much like lions. Sea lions can also "walk" on land and rotate their pelvis around to use their hind flippers. 

If they approach you out of curiosity, Hall says it's illegal to feed them.

“It's illegal to harass them or pursue them and there are minimum distance regulations,” she says.

People should keep a distance of 100 metres. Meanwhile, the City of Vancouver does have a wildlife feeding bylaw, which prohibits the feeding of wildlife anywhere in Vancouver.

"Vancouver is home to many types of wildlife, and we want you to enjoy the wildlife while being safe. Respecting wildlife allows you and animals to peacefully coexist,” the city states. "The best thing you can do for a wild animal is give it space and observe from afar.”

How long will the sea lions stick around? Well, Hall says they will stay in southern B.C. right through until the springtime and then they’ll return to the breeding rookeries.