"The Aquatic Park Cove has been closed to swimming due to reports of an aggressive marine mammal biting swimmers in the area", the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park tweeted on Friday.
Two unusual sea lion attacks in a San Francisco Bay cove led authorities to close the popular area to swimmers Friday as officials try to determine the reason for the aggressive behavior.
The injured swimmer, identified as Rick Mulvihill, suffered a "severe bite" around 8 a.m. and was being treated at San Francisco General Hospital, said Lt. Jonathan Baxter of the San Francisco Fire Department.
The Aquatic Park Cove, host to two swimming/rowing clubs, is a favorite spot for swimming along San Francisco's northern waterfront. "He yelled at it and then the sea lion came up and bit him on the arm and he used his arm to push him away and then it went away and he never saw it again after that", said Matthew Reiter with San Francisco Police Department's Marine Unit.
He was pulled from the water by other swimmers who carried him to the street, where he was picked up by an ambulance.
He told KGO from the hospital that a male sea lion started to stalk him and he grew concerned. Park rangers said that the danger signs may not keep everyone out of the water, but they will warn people to enter only at your own risk, ABC7 News reported. "I don't know. You get a sixth sense".
'I was relatively calm because I wasn't dead, ' he said.
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Claire Simeone, a conservation medicine veterinarian at the Marine Mammal Center in the Marin Headlands, said it is not clear whether the culprit was a sea lion or harbor seal.
Experts say the perpetrator could have also been a harbor seal, given that the two species are hard to tell apart in the water.
Simeone said she suspects the attacker was the same animal in each instance, but there is nearly no way of determining that or figuring out why it has chosen to go on the offensive. She conducted a study on seal and sea lion attacks that was published in 2015.
"As these animals are wild, their behavior can be erratic", Simeon said.
Such attacks happen so infrequently, however, that the South End Rowing Club characterizes them as "rare" on its website in response to questions about the dangers of swimming in the bay. While it was clear that approaching the animals could cause negative reactions, numerous swimmers did not appear to have done anything to provoke the attack. He was taken to Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, where he is listed in good condition.
The swimmer was talking the whole time, Reiter said. But the sea lion came at him.
Both swimmers are expected to recover, Cullivan said. The cove will be closed to swimmers until Monday as park officials work on a safety plan, they said in a statement. "Actually, I think about sharks more than sea lions".