Home US NEWS California sea lions chase beachgoers at La Jolla Cove in San Diego

California sea lions chase beachgoers at La Jolla Cove in San Diego

California sea lions chase beachgoers at La Jolla Cove in San Diego


With beating flippers and bouncing bellies, two sea lions charged along the sands of California’s La Jolla Cove on Friday, forcing visitors to flee in a scene one observer likened to being chased by “Godzilla” — much to the delight of social media users who praised the animals for reclaiming their natural habitat.

While some people ran uphill toward safety and those in the water swam in the opposite direction, one woman watched from afar, capturing the incident on video and posting it on TikTok. “These sea lions made my day yesterday,” she wrote shortly before the footage went viral, generating almost 11 million views on the platform.

A pair of sea lions chased after a large group of people at an ecological reserve in San Diego on July 8. (Video: Charlianne Yeyna / Amazing Animals+ / TMX)

“I started recording because it was really funny to watch, for me to see all these tourists getting blown away by these giant sea lions,” the woman, who was later identified as Charlianne Yeyna, told NBC San Diego.

Yeyna said she was watching the “massive” sea lions sleep on the beach when a woman approached to take a photo and “got really close” before one “just woke up and started chasing everybody.” Yeyna estimated that the woman came within four feet of the animal.

Sea lions are often spotted at La Jolla Cove, and visitors are asked to keep a safe distance. “Do not approach” signs are erected along the beach during pupping season in a bid to protect mothers and their young.

Eric Otjen, a sea lion expert from SeaWorld San Diego, told the Associated Press that despite the social media comments on the creatures chasing beachgoers, Friday’s incident was actually expected and often seen in the summer months when breeding season is in full swing.

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“This behavior is not uncommon at all. The reason why the video has gotten like 10 million views is because everybody is running like Godzilla is chasing them,” he said.

Otjen said that it was unlikely the animals were targeting members of the public and that they were instead fiercely preparing to reproduce.

“He’s got swimmers all around him on his way back out, but they don’t bother him,” he said. “What this is all about is his right to mate.”

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On social media, many who viewed the footage declared they were proudly “team sea lion,” praising the animals for chasing sun seekers away.

“I’m personally rooting for the sea lions,” read one tweet. “Somebody get david attenborough on the phone immediately we need this clip narrated,” read another. (Sir David Attenborough is a well-known English broadcaster and naturalist.)

Some questioned why city officials had not permanently closed off the strip of sand, which has long been popular with the animals.

Male sea lions can grow up to eight feet long and can weigh up to 600 pounds, according to the Smithsonian National Zoo. Female sea lions can reach up to six feet in length and can weigh about 400 pounds. They are usually found grouped on rocky shorelines, piers and islands.

Sea lions are considered highly territorial. “Breeding males, and females with newborn pups, may threaten and chase intruders,” according to information shared by SeaWorld.

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Unlike their more demure “second cousins,” the seals, who are known for their quiet grunts, sea lions display a more boisterous streak — barking incessantly — especially during mating season, which runs from May to October.

During mating season, male behavior is “most aggressive,” according to experts who say they push, shove and chase to assert dominance over one another.

Earlier this year, the city council said it had noticed a pattern of harassment at the tourist destination, adding that attempting to take selfies with the wild animals at Point La Jolla was “dangerous.”

No injuries were reported in Friday’s sea lion incident.

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