SAN DIEGO — A marine mammal expert is shedding light on a viral video that shows two bull sea lions causing dozens of people to flee the La Jolla Cove area over the weekend.
“You see a seal [sic] chasing them, running after them, so everyone starts running, and then another seal, so there were two, and then the people ran into the stairs and then the seal went out into the ocean,” a beachgoer told FOX 5 Monday. “But it was hilarious.”
No one was hurt, but in the end, lifeguards and beachgoers were dealing with a precarious wildlife encounter.
Sea lion experts say the initial idea the two large males were charging people is mistaken. Carol Toye with the Sierra Club told FOX 5 the sea lions were attempting to establish a territory for mating, and the people nearby were simply caught up in the scuffle.
“These were two young bulls and they were chasing each other,” Toye told FOX 5. “They will go about their business just as if we’re not there, which makes it even more important to really keep the distances.”
Experts say the pair in the video were between 500 and 600 pounds. A full-grown bull sea lion weighs between 800 and 1,000 pounds and is not normally outwardly aggressive, but the species has been known to bite people.
Some tourists are taking the incident to heart.
“I wasn’t worried ’cause I stayed far enough away but I wouldn’t be swimming,” one tourist told FOX 5.
With the La Jolla Point closed to the public because of the wildlife activity, some are worried the cove might eventually close as well.
Lifeguards say beachgoers are expected to stay at least 50 feet away from sea lions at all times. If people act recklessly with marine mammals, they can receive a ticket in some cases.