Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

California sea lions, Prince William Sound, Alaska, 2000.

Image: Neil Moomey and Dan Beeler.

Tourists love to visit Fisherman’s Wharf for the seafood, the view of San Francisco Bay, and also to watch the many dozens of playful sea lions that lounge by the water’s edge, eating fish. However, in southern California, sea lions have begun attacking god-fearing American citizens. For example, this past June in Southern California, a sea lion charged several people on Manhattan Beach, eventually biting a man before escaping justice. Last spring in Berkeley, a woman was hospitalized after a sea lion seriously bit her leg. A lifeguard in Santa Barbara was bitten three times while swimming off El Capitan State Beach. But perhaps most impressive event of aggression occurred last summer when a group of sea lions took over a Newport Beach marina and capsized a vintage 50-foot yacht when they illegally boarded it.

What is the reason that our native endangered wildlife are attacking innocent human tourists? Are these the new wave of terrorists; animals seeking vengeance for genocide perpetuated by hunters, fishermen, oil drillers, farmers and ranchers, foresters and other murderous humans; a genocide that is causing sharp declines in animal populations? And seriously, in view of these facts, do any humans deserve mercy from these beleaguered animals?

[A] series of sea-lion attacks on people in recent months has led experts to warn that the animals are not as cute and cuddly as they appear.

“People should understand these animals are out there not to attack people or humans. But they’re out there to survive for themselves,” said Jim Oswald, a spokesman for the Marine Mammal Center across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco.

Cited story.

Image source.



  1. #1 mcewen
    November 30, 2006

    Makes a great day trip down to Anna Nuevo though!
    Best wishes

  2. #2 The Ridger
    November 30, 2006

    I remember once, years ago … 75? Maybe 74… I was in California, on Point Lobos out by Carmel. Sea lions – maybe they were big seals, I honestly can’t remember which by this time – spent some brief amount of time there as they passed on to their breeding grounds. This particular day there was one guy left – probably too old to successfully compete, and making his way there more slowly – and he was asleep on the beach. A tourist family came along and the parents sent the boy down to pose by the sea lion. By the time I realized what was happening it was too late to warn them, and they might not have listened anyway: they had told the kid to *pet* the sea lion! Of course, he woke up all startled and bit the kid before heaving himself into the ocean and leaving as quickly as he could. Laid the kid’s arm open from shoulder to elbow. The parents were stunned. I led them to the hospital, and didn’t speak to them again, but I’ve always wondered why it is people think wild animals – especially wild carnivores – are tame? (Of course, they might not have thought of seals as carnivores…)

  3. #3 The Ridger
    November 30, 2006

    PS – it reminds me of that old movie ‘Frogs’, which had that exact plot: all the animals on this Carolina island started killing the pesticide-producing owners. Ray Milland stomped to death by frogs at the end of the movie … sigh. Good times.

  4. #4 David Harmon
    November 30, 2006

    Sigh… some people are just idiots. I bet these are the same folks who climb into zoo enclosures, or hop out of their cars on “auto safari” tours.

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