Sunday, November 19, 2006
(I swim in Aquatic Park every week pretty much. The seal hasn't bothered me, probably because he thinks I'm a bigger seal or a baby whale.)
CBS 5 / AP) SAN FRANCISCO San Francisco's Aquatic Park Lagoon remained closed for swimming Thursday due to reports of a sea lion repeatedly biting local swimmers, maritime officials said.Officials estimated at least 20 swimmers were bitten since Monday, including 13 on Wednesday alone at the Lagoon, which hosts two swimming and rowing clubs and is a favorite spot for swimming along San Francisco’s northern waterfront.No one serious injuries were reported. City health officials aren't recommending rabies shots, but victims were advised by the Marine Mammal Center to take antibiotics to ward off infection.The very first incident involved a woman who was bitten by a sea lion while swimming in the Bay around 4 pm Monday. Celeste McMullin said she saw the animal lurking nearby before her swim but didn't think much of it.Web Extra: Unedited Interview With Swimmer Bitten By Sea Lion"I was a quarter-mile out swimming along, felt a brush under my feet, and I think, 'These feel like whiskers,' " said Celeste McMullin. "I realized it was an animal. So I stopped, and he popped up and looked at me."McMullin then tried to swim away, but the sea lion "followed me the whole time, bumping me and nipping" continuously until she made it back to shore. She ended up with six bites - two puncture wounds and four cuts - and was advised to go to the hospital to have the wounds cleaned.Original reports had the woman bitten by a harbor seal. But a spokesman for the Marine Mammal Center said the attacker most likely was a sea lion, because they are more aggressive than seals.Since that attack, "the park has received reports of multiple bite incidents in the last two days," said spokesman John Cunnane. "For the time being we're advising people to stay out of the water until further notice, until we find out more about it."Omer Thompson believes the animal he saw was a harbor seal that looked like it was playing in the Bay."He was leaping over the top of people's feet, swimming really fast, and coming clear out of the water like a dolphin comes out of the water," Thompson said. "As soon as somebody would come back in the water, it would take off and play with somebody else."Don Reid, a 30-year Dolphin Club member, got a chunk taken out of him Wednesday while swimming in the bay."(The sea lion) attacked and bit me on my left calf, and it drew blood," he told CBS 5 while on his way to see a doctor.Lou Marcelli said he was brushed by a claw before he could get bit, but even that left a nasty bruise."I get half way back to the dock, and I feel something," he explained to CBS 5. "I don't know what the hell it was. It felt slimy. So I just kept going. As I got to the end of the dock, the lady from next door said, 'You better get out of there, because there's a sea lion right after you.' "The Acquatic Park staff are working with other agencies to identify the sea lion and determine the reason for the animal's behavior. Longtime swimmers said they believe it's a sick sea lion who has become aggressive.Biologists suspect the rogue sea lion is either protecting his harem of mates, or has suffered some sort of brain damage from toxic algae.Marine Mammal Center veterinarian Frances Gulland said the animal may soon leave the area and advised swimmers to avoid the Lagoon in the meantime."The migration has started, and the animals are moving north to Washington state and Oregon," she said.