As some people ran uphill to safety and those in the water swam in the opposite direction, a woman watched from a distance, videotaping the incident and posting it on TikTok. “These sea lions made me happy yesterday,” she wrote shortly before the video went viral, generating nearly 11 million views on the platform.
“I started recording because it was really fun to watch and made me see all these tourists being 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 “huge” sea lions sleeping on the beach when a woman approached to take pictures and “got very close” before a woman “just woke up and started chasing everyone”. Yeyna estimated the woman was within four feet of the animal.
Sea lions are often spotted in La Jolla Bay, and tourists are asked to maintain a safe distance. “Do Not Approach” signs are erected along the beach during puppy season to protect mothers and their pups.
Eric Otjen, a sea lion expert at SeaWorld San Diego, told The Associated Press that despite social media comments about the creatures chasing beachgoers, Friday’s event was actually expected and often happens during the summer months when the breeding season is in full swing.
“This kind of behavior is not uncommon. The reason the video got 10 million views is because everyone was running, like Godzilla was chasing them,” he said.
The animals are unlikely to be targeting the public, Otjen said, but are fiercely preparing to breed.
“There were swimmers everywhere on his way back, but they didn’t bother him,” he said. “That’s his mating right.”
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On social media, many who watched the video proudly proclaimed they were “sea lions” and praised the animals for keeping the sunchaser away.
“I personally support sea lions,” one tweet read. “Someone called David Attenborough immediately and we need to tell about this video,” another reader said. (Sir David Attenborough was a famous British broadcaster and naturalist.)
Some have questioned why city officials didn’t permanently close the sandbelt, which has long been popular with animals.
Male sea lions can grow up to eight feet long and weigh up to 600 pounds, according to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo. Female sea lions can grow up to six feet in length and weigh about 400 pounds. They usually congregate on rocky coastlines, piers and islands.
Sea lions are considered highly territorial. According to information shared by SeaWorld, “breeding males and females with newborn pups may threaten and chase intruders”.
Unlike their more demure “second cousins,” sea lions are known for their quiet purrs, and sea lions exhibit a more boisterous streak — barking nonstop — especially during mating from May to October. season.
Males behave “most aggressively” during the mating season, according to experts, who say they push, push and chase to maintain each other’s dominance.
Earlier this year, the city council said it was aware of a pattern of harassment at the tourist destination, adding that it was “dangerous” to try to take a selfie with wildlife at Point La Jolla.
There were no reports of injuries in Friday’s sea lion incident.