Fascinating, intelligent, and common as entertaining trained animals, we can’t forget that sea lions are still wild and have awfully big teeth and powerful jaws. They don’t call them sea kittens.
Dan Carlin’s wife told him to smile for a picture on their 29-foot boat as he held up one of the yellowtail fish they had caught that day. Then a sea lion leaped 7 feet out of the water, bit into his hand and yanked him overboard.
The animal, weighing hundreds of pounds, smashed the 62-year-old San Diego accountant against the boat’s side and sent his legs flying into the air like a rag doll’s before it dragged him some 20 feet underwater, Carlin said Wednesday, more than three weeks into his recovery after the April 5 incident.
It does appear that the animal was not at all happy that HIS fish was taken and that someone was in his neighborhood. Seals are used to getting easy fish scraps from humans. It could be that food is becoming scarce and the seals become bolder.
Sea lions and fur seals are of the family Otariidae, or eared seals.
All in all, big otariids like Otaria are hefty and quite scary predators. One of my favourite mammals is the Leopard seal Hydrurga leptonyx, a species that is well known for its ability to kill other pinnipeds (including juvenile Otaria), large penguins, and even (on at least one occasion) humans. Sea lions haven’t yet been reported to kill a person, but Californian sea lions Zalophus californianus in particular have bitten plenty, with the number of reported attacks increasing in recent months (Berkeley marina suffered a spate of attacks in 2006).
And in 2007, a 13 year old girl was attacked while surfing. This site, SeaLion World, notes that attacks are rare and are due to the animals being both territorial and curious. Males especially have been known to bite swimmers. They are carnivores and should be considered dangerous to approach.