News Briefs

Sea lions attack

Multiple attacks on swimmers by sea lions might be the work of a lone pinniped perpetrator. Photo: Martayerbe

San Francisco’s Aquatic Park was closed temporarily in December after several swimmers were attacked by a sea lion. Two of the attacks that took place within a 24-hour period in mid-December prompted the closing for several days.

Sea lions are not noted for their aggression, so the unusual behavior has led some wildlife experts to suspect that the attacks were all carried out by one animal.

Swimmer Rick Mulvihill told KPIX 5 that on Dec. 15, he was swimming in Aquatic Park when he was attacked: “I was just swimming along and whatever it was — everybody’s thinking it’s a sea lion now; I never saw him — came up from underneath me and hit me. It’s like being in a car accident.”

Upon the reopening of Aquatic Park Cove for swimming, the National Park Service posted an alert, warning swimmers to “Please remember that marine mammals are wild animals, in their natural habitat, and that their behavior can be unpredictable. Give them a wide berth!”

NPS also shared a 2015 case study of sea lion bites, which noted that “attempting to touch or pet sea lions or seals is inadvisable and prohibited by the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Swimmers should leave the water as soon as possible after a bite or encounter.”

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