I have a tendency to believe they are harmless, at least I did believe that until recently when a few incidents occurred that made me curious. The first was on television news, a girl was sitting on the edge of what appeared to be some sort of a tank made of concrete. Suddenly a sea lion jumped out of the water, grabbed the seat of her pants and dragged her into the water, it was alarming. She was dragged under the water when a bystander leaped in, grabbed her and pulled her to safety, the young girl had to be scared at a minimum.
|Photo of a large sea lion, powerful, and determined to survive.|
A fourth victim was bitten at the aquatic park in San Francisco Bay yesterday, January 11, 2017, A lady and her friend were swimming, a normal activity for them, when suddenly she was grabbed onto by the seal and dragged under the water. Bleeding badly when she was released, luckily a paramedic was in the water swimming at the same time, he assisted her. She did not want to go to the doctor, that is not the choice I would make, but we all decide for ourselves, her friend did convince her to get an examination.
December 15, 2016, a male swimmer was bitten on the thigh by one of the sea creatures, it is not known if the same animal was involved. A severe bite he was taken to the hospital for treatment. That incident was one day after another person was attacked that did not require a medical exam or treatment.
Sea Lion's attacking humans is not completely unknown, from 2011-2013 there were 10 people bitten in San Francisco Bay and 1 in Puget Sound, Washington. There is no predicting, and no patterns to the bites, although one person was bitten when he tried to pet a pinniped, they are after all wild animals. Being in such quarters with humans we do have a tendency to think of all wild animals as somehow being more "tame" when they are that close. We hear about tourist being gored by deer, elk, and bison as well as being attacked by wild bears, raccoons, and other vicious wild creatures that deserve our respect and a wide berth. When wild animals interact with humans it can be defined in many ways, the way I think of the relationship is, "humans are involved for the entertainment of some sort, the animals are involved for survival, every day is a struggle of life and death for them." There is no understanding, no compassion, no empathy, and actually very little thought on the part of the wild animal, just fight or flight.
Especially hazardous to divers, and people involved with the handling of seals, when bitten, medical attention is needed. Although not unheard of, the attacks when they do occur may inflict serious injury, deep lacerations are sometimes the outcome. The treatment is typical for lacerations, clean the wound, sutures, clean dressing, and a tetanus shot. Sea lions do carry a much-feared disease known by the name of "Seal Finger", (Link to bacterium leptospirosis), people in close proximity to seals, aquarium workers, medical workers, people that hunt pinnipeds, and victims of bites are most apt to contract the disease. In fact, the young girl that was dragged into the water by the sea lion, (mentioned above), contracted "seal finger" and underwent treatment.
If you are bitten by a sea lion, wash the wound very well, apply disinfectant, dry the wound, and receive medical care as soon as possible. When diving in a remote location, an emergency plan should be established, who to call, where you are, and what happened will all need to be listed. There could be other reactions, watch the wound for ten days if the person feels ill, weak, or in any way unwell they must seek medical attention.
Rabies, any mammal can be infected with rabies, luckily it being a mostly land-based disease the incidences of seals carrying the disease are remote at best, An infected animal could be eaten by a sea lion and contract the disease, that is true, however animals with rabies are afraid of the water due to the difficulty in breathing, and swallowing as a result of being infected. Having very sharp germ infested teeth and mouths, not only is it dangerous to be near a pinniped, it is also illegal. The Marine Mammal Protection act prohibits feeding, harassing, touching, or swimming with them, it actually places the animal in danger. To put some muscle behind the act it is also illegal in the United States to come within 150 of a Wild Marine Animal, but when they are underwater, how can it be determined where they are, which adds to the problem of swimmers being bitten.
|Whatever else you do, never get between the mother and her cubs.|
Sea Lions, Pinnipeds, are fun to watch, a real novelty to some people, however extreme caution must be applied when interacting with them.
* Respect wild animals, don't try to put the babies in your vehicle, don't feed them, pet them or try to "help" them, they don't need our help.
* Don't pet the animals, or attempt to pick them up, it can be disastrous, do you notice the "eye horns" on a male deer? That is the short antler just above the eye if a person is standing in front of the animal while petting it when the animal is startled they suddenly lift their heads, sometimes the eye antler impales the petter and the human ends up on the wrong end of that stick.
* Don't approach any maritime mammal, actually I would suggest not approaching any maritime animal, saltwater crocodiles come instantly to mind, they will stand their ground and defend it, mere mortals don't have much of a chance.
* If you come across a baby wild animal, leave it alone, and get away from it as soon as you can. If you are caught between a mother and baby, your chances are close to zero for survival.
In conclusion, be careful and alert whenever you happen to be in an area where you may encounter wild animals of any kind, you have understanding, they don't.
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