What do you think of when you think of Sea Lions? Do you think of seeing shows at places like Marineland or SeaWorld? Do you picture some sort of cuddly sea creature who wants to be your friend? Do you think of seals?
Seals and Sea Lions are fairly similar – they’re both part of the pinnipeds family (latin for fin-footed) along with walruses. There are a few defining characteristics, however. For example: Sea lions are generally brown, they bark loudly, they “walk” on land using their large flippers, and have visible ear flaps. Seals, on the other hand, have smaller flippers, wiggle on their bellies on land, and lack visible ear flaps. They also tend to be quieter, vocalizing in soft grunts.
Another difference is that sea lions are potentially more dangerous to humans than most seals. The leopard seal is known to be quite a predator and could cause problems for people. According to Professor Wikipedia, sea lion attacks on humans are rare, but getting within 2.5 metres of one is particularly dangerous. There are numerous records of sea lion attacks, and this video that’s gone viral this weekend was almost video evidence of another one. Have a look:
That happened in Richmond, B.C.
Now I’m no animal expert, but it sure looks to me like that Sea Lion was in prey stalking mode as it swam around with its head just above water, not unlike what an alligator does. Mind you, if I was part of this group of people, I would have probably reacted the same way: in awe.
However, around 1:25 in the video when that Sea Lion jumps up…
… That’s when I would probably back up a little bit. However, thanks to places like Marineland (where the Sea Lions kiss, so the story goes), they probably thought this wild (and not at all trained) animal was just comin’ in for a little smooch. I guess we can thank commercials like this one:
I have read a few places that the man who jumped in to save the girl was her grandfather, though according to CBC, the person who took the video wasn’t sure if they were related or not. Either way, the girl and the people who were with her left almost immediately and were fairly shaken up.
Animal experts have called the situation stupid. As reported by CBC:
Andrew Trites, the director of UBC’s Marine Mammal Research Unit, does not blame the animal for its behaviour in the video.
“My first reaction to the video is just how stupid some people can be to not treat wildlife with proper respect,” he said. “This was a male California sea lion. They are huge animals. They are not circus performers. They’re not trained to be next to people.”
According to Canada’s Marine Mammal Regulations, “no person shall disturb a marine mammal except when fishing.”
Trites says the sea lion in the video looks like it is used to having people feed it.
So what can we take away from this? Well… If you find yourself on a dock with some marine wildlife acting in a similar manner to that sea lion, maybe… get out of there. And definitely don’t feed wildlife.
And don’t necessarily believe what Feist says…
… because according to her, a sea lion woman drinks coffee and tea. As that video shows, it might be more likely to eat your children.