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California Tourists Prompt Sea Lion Attack in Dangerous Selfie Quest

By Jake Beardslee · July 29, 2023

California thrill-seekers came dangerously close to wild sea lions, placing themselves and the water-borne mammals at serious risk.  Jennyhjert, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Lifeguards were forced to warn beachgoers last week after a group came dangerously close to a nursery of territorial sea lions in La Jolla, California. Video shows the massive sea lions abruptly charging the crowd, causing panicked tourists to flee.

Male sea lions can reach up to 7 feet long and 750 pounds and are capable of speeds up to 25 mph. “They’ve got a big set of teeth on them, and they can give a very serious bite,” Zoo Miami Official Ron Magill told ABC News.

According to Magill, the reality is that when wild animals attack humans, “what ends up being hurt the most is going to be the sea lion, because it either has to be euthanized [or] it has to be removed from the environment. It becomes a threat to people.” The La Jolla incident is the latest example of people getting dangerously close to wildlife for the sake of a photo or video.

Similar behavior was caught on camera in Florida, when a man drove his watercraft through a pod of protected manatees. “You can catch him with his phone in his hand, driving right to them to take a picture,” said an eyewitness. The shaken manatees, a threatened species protected under Florida’s Manatee Sanctuary Act, can be seen reacting with panicked thrashing.

“It’s likely those manatees were congregating what’s called a mating ball - that these males were going around a female for reproduction” said Magill. “You can see the panic as they try to disperse… I understand there’s a curiosity to get a good look at these animals. They’re fascinating. They’re incredible. But please understand, by this type of behavior, you’re only hurting the animal, and you can very much be hurting yourself as well.”

Experts like McGill have have called for a campaign to raise public awareness about to the urgent need to respect animals’ space.

Light Wave commentary

Our desire for up-close animal encounters and perfect selfies has led to a disturbing trend of harassing wildlife. Recent video from California, Florida and elsewhere show people thoughtlessly traipsing into habitats and startling protected species, who react either with started fear or justified anger. People’s self-absorbed addiction to thrill seeking must not come at the expense of animal welfare.