Pinniped: Preditor or Pal?

Sea Lions Lounging. We swim near the ship in the background. Photo by the Internet
pinniped as defined by Dictionary(dot)com

  1. belonging to the Pinnipedia, a suborder of carnivores with limbs adapted to an aquatic life, including the seals and walruses
  1. a pinniped animal
So many creatures swim in the San Francisco Bay, including sea stars, jellyfish, whales, squid, octopi, sharks, seals, sea lions and me.  Swimming with all the wildlife is great until it's not.

Right now, it's not so great. At the end of last year, several swimmers were bitten, presumably by sea lion(s). Many hypotheses circulated as to why the sea lions bit the swimmers:

  • Swimmers provoking the sea lions
  • Sea lions suffering sickness
  • Sea lions protecting their territory anticipating mating season
  • Fisherman dumping their catch waste created a feeding ground
  • Bad timing/Supermoon/Temperatures dropping/entropy/etc...

I regularly encounter sea lions and seals during swims. I have not yet been bumped or bitten. With the facts being several people have been bitten, my question becomes what changes, if any should I make to my swimming routine?

My answer: avoid swimming on East Main Street - the eastern seawall protecting Fisherman's Wharf. I'm buying into the theory of marking territory for mating season and the sea wall has been marked. Additionally, avoid the wetsuit and using sea lion based embrocation creams. Wetsuit-clad swimmers more closely resemble other pinnipeds, and I don't want to be confused as a potential mate - not my idea of a good time. Note: none of the bitten swimmers wore wetsuits nor used pinniped based embrocation mixtures.

Swimmers regularly report sea lion sightings along the seawall, Wedding Cake, Opening, Bad Becky Buoy, and EVERYWHERE else! We are swimming in their home, as their guests. They are everywhere and should be expected to be everywhere. Over time,  I will conclude the aggressive sea lion(s) moved on and found another home. Then, I will return to East Main Street.

Sea Star hanging out at E. Main Street


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