February 1st: A1

Sea Lion of the Month


I thought for this month’s featured sea lion, it would be interesting to share the story of a male sea lion that we have observed over his entire life-span. The February Sea Lion of the Month is A1. When we would see him in the field, we would fondly call him, “steak sauce,” after the well known A.1. Steak Sauce. Did you know, according to Wikipedia, in 1824, the English King George IV tried the sauce and called it “A.1.”, the highest category to classify ships for insurance purposes (meaning high quality)? And so was the name coined…


Anyway, the sea lion, A1, was the first to be marked on Ugamak Island in 2001 on June 27th. At the time, he was just under 3.5 feet (99 cm) long and weighed just over 50 pounds (24 kg). Typical of male juvenile sea lions, he was not seen much after 2001 until 2004 at Billings Head on Akun Island. Shortly thereafter in June, he returned to his birth place, Ugamak Island. The next sighting was all the way up at St. George Island (of the Pribilof Islands, in the Bering Sea), almost 300 miles north, in January. He then went back to Billings Head in May before being spotted again on Ugamak during the summer breeding season.

From then on, it seems A1‘s general trend was to spend some time on St. George in the winter, and always returning to his birth place on Ugamak during the summer breeding season. In fact, amazingly, he held a breeding territory with females (also called a “harem”) for 5 summers in a row from 2008 (when he was 7) to 2013 (when he was 12 years old. That’s quite impressive considering that means he was onshore fasting while holding those territories. This also means he was involved in many territorial fights with other males, which is very obvious in this picture where you can see several superficial wounds.


Our last sighting of A1 was on July 5, 2013, on the haulout part of the rookery, where males without breeding territories hang out with other males. He had arrived on Ugamak on May 29 of this year and held a territory however, he did not have any females until June 28th and only until July 4th. It’s hard work maintaining a territory and it seems this was his final year to do so. Since it’s been almost 5 years since we have seen him, and he would be almost 16 years old by now (which is fairly old for a male sea lion), it’s likely steak sauce has died. But, I still hold out hope that we will catch a glimpse of him one last time living the good life on St. George…

Curious about other pinnipeds (seals and sea lions)? Check out our neighbors in the Pacific Islands to the south, the monk seals of the Northwest Hawaiian Islands. The Pacific Island Fisheries Science Center features their own Monk Seal of the Month!

We will share the story of one marked sea lion each month. Be sure to check our Sea Lion of the Month page on the 1st of every month to learn about our featured Steller sear lion. You may nominate a sea lion by submitting their full mark on the Sea Lion of the Month nomination forum. Thank you all for your nominations!