(KTXL) — If you’re out on the Sacramento River, there’s a chance you may have caught a glimpse of a sea lion.

The marine animals regularly make their way to Sacramento, swimming in the Sacramento River from the Pacific Ocean to the capital city.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, California sea lions live in the shallow waters of the eastern North Pacific Ocean and prefer beaches or rocky coves for breeding and haul-out sites. They also haul out to marina docks, jetties and buoys.

However, male sea lions tend to travel along the West Coast all the way up to southern Alaska from winter to early spring. 

Why are sea lions in Sacramento? 

The sea lions make their way to the Sacramento River for food, traveling north from their breeding area in the Channel Islands in Southern California, said Matt Burks with NOAA Fisheries West Coast Region.

The Sacramento River water system is home to salmon, which enter the river from late March to September, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

NOAA said sea lions tend to eat offshore in coastal areas and eat a variety of fish such as squid, anchovies, mackerel, rockfish and sardines. 

Male sea lions tend to make their way back to their home for mating season, which typically lasts from late June to early August, NOAA said. Most pups are born from May through June, according to NOAA.

Where are the sea lions in Sacramento? 

The animals are regularly spotted on both sides of the Sacramento River near the Old Sacramento Waterfront, West Sacramento and at the American River at River Park.

If you come across sea lions, NOAA urges people to keep their distance from these creatures, as it’s illegal to feed and harass sea lions. 

How to safely watch the sea lions

NOAA recommends keeping yourself and your pets at least 100 yards — the length of a football field — from sea lions to not disrupt behaviors such as resting, feeding, nursing, or breeding. Burks said it’s important to not disturb them so they can “gain their strength for their return trip.” 

Close encounters with a sea lion can be “harmful” to the creatures, as they can interrupt their natural behaviors.

“Human disturbances may interfere with important survival behaviors, or cause mothers to abandon their pups,” NOAA’s website said. 

Under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, feeding, attempting to feed and harassing sea lions is illegal because the animals can be harmed in the following ways:

•Marine mammals associate people with food and could lose natural wariness to humans and become conditioned to receiving food
•Their natural behaviors are changed and decreases their willingness to hunt for food on their own
•Feeding them inappropriate food, non-food items or contaminated food jeopardizes their health
•They can become aggressive when seeking food and can bite or injure people when teased or expecting food