Two swimmers in the San Francisco Bay wound up hospitalized with sea lion bites over a less-than-24-hour span this week, authorities report.
Both swimmers were in the San Francisco Aquatic Park Cove area, Lynn Cullivan of the San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park told The Sacramento Bee.
The incidents prompted the closure of the area to swimmers by Golden Gate National Park officials.
On Thursday afternoon, a man was bitten on the arm by a sea lion and received a “serious” injury, according to the San Francisco Fire Department.
The man, identified by KGO as Christian Einfeldt, told the channel that he thought the sea lion trailed him from the beach to the Aquatic Park area.
“I did feel threatened, I did have warning, but I was a quarter mile from shore, there was nothing I could do,” Einfeldt told KGO.
After he was bitten by the animal, a sailboat came to Einfeldt’s rescue and brought him to shore.
He was losing blood, so the San Francisco Police Department’s Marine Unit had to apply a tourniquet before taking him to the hospital, which could have saved the swimmers life, according to the Fire Department.
Then, around 8 a.m. Friday, a second swimmer was bitten by a sea lion – possibly in the groin area, according to Cullivan.
He was also in serious condition and taken to an area hospital.
Both swimmers are expected to recover, Cullivan said.
Dr. Claire Simeone, a veterinarian with The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, told The Bee that attacks by sea lions are “infrequent.”
From what she had been told about the two cases, the attacks seemed unprovoked, she said, and it appears that the same animal could be behind them.
There is a chance that the bites were from a sick or injured animal or a curious younger one, Simeone said.
“We share the coastline with these animals but we have to remember that they’re wild and can react erratically,” she said.
“They have sharp teeth and may bite, particularly if cornered, harassed, sick, or if protecting their young. Sea lions can be playful; however, they can also be territorial and dangerous especially during the mating seasons,” the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says.
About 10 to 11 years ago, there was a report of a marine mammal biting people in the San Francisco area, Cullivan said. However, it was more like nips instead of serious bites.
“I’ve been around the bay for my whole life and I’ve not heard of many incidences like this,” San Francisco police Officer Matthew Reiter said, according to the Los Angeles Times.
In May, a girl was snatched off a Vancouver-area pier by a sea lion in a video that went viral.
Here are five things to know about sea lions: http://sacb.ee/9SYw.