Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Sea Lions- they don't actually "attack" humans

I love marine mammals. Orcas are just about the coolest animals on the planet, and I love watching them an learning about them.  Sea lions are up there among the cool. I've spent hours at both Pier 39 in San Francisco and on a beach near San Luis Obispo talking to the sea lions.  In fact, the fact that my boyfriend at the time waited in the car while I spent another 30 min with the sea lions was one of the many signs that he was going to be an ex.

Pier 39 San Fran

Last week, I had my first sea lion encounter in the water. We'd seen a few swim by prior to entering.  This one I saw surface and dive about 25 feet in front of me.  I was in awe.  It was beautiful! Then I was scared, I didn't see which way it went!

I looked for it under the water. I didn't see it.  I looked for it above. I didn't see it.  I'm pretty sure, however, that it saw me.  And probably swam away shaking its head at the poor blubber-less mammal that swims so slow.

The whole thing got me thinking about the safety of swimming with sea lions. So I did some research.

The news headlines were abundant "sea lion attacks man taking photo" "sea lion attacks kayaker". Seriously, a kayaker?  They aren't even really in the water. "Diver attacked by sea lion". But as I drilled down, I saw that all these articles had one thing in common-- the person was FISHING at the time they were attacked.  The man taking a photo had just cleaned fish and had one in his hand for the photo. The kayaker was "attacked" by a playful young pup who climbed on his kayak and stole fish.  The diver was spear fishing as well.

So I kept looking for cases of swimmers (without fish) who were attacked by sea lions. I found a story about a beach near San Diego where the sea lions had taken over, for resting and breeding purposes.  Humans were used to swimming from that beach and still wanted to. A few had negative encounters, including being bitten, by the sea lions.

The story reports:
Lately, the increasingly territorial animals have started blocking swimmers from getting into the water, forcing people to walk back and forth on the beach until they can find a safe opening to enter the ocean.

In this case, one has to put at least some of the responsibility on the human.  When a wild animal is clearly signally to you "don't go there" then you probably shouldn't go there!

Monterey Bay Sea Lions
I did find one case of a lone swimmer in San Francisco Bay who was neither fishing nor harassing sea lions when she was bit.  That was the only case I could find through a casual search.

The bottom line, is that they are highly unlikely to bother you, if you don't have fish and don't bother them.  So I'll keep on swimming, and hope to see more again in the future.

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