Fourth San Francisco Swimmer In A Month Attacked By Sea Lion

The woman was not seriously injured even though animal "chomped down," a witness said.

A fourth San Francisco swimmer has been injured in a sea lion attack in the latest of a bizarre series of encounters that began in the middle of last month. All of the attacks have occurred in Aquatic Park Cove, a popular spot for swimmers off the city’s north coast.

In the latest attack a woman was bitten in the knee. A retired paramedic who was also swimming in the cove around 7 a.m. Thursday when the attack occurred helped the woman as she exited the water. She was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment, according to a statement by the San Francisco Fire Department.

The bite was “not severe, but anytime you get bit it’s a bad thing,” a spokeswoman for the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, which is in charge of the cove, told ABC-7 TV.

Alice Ma, who was swimming near the woman, told the San Francisco Chronicle that the pinniped grabbed the victim’s leg and tried to drag her underwater.

“It chomped down onto her,” said Ma. “It bit her and pulled.”

The cove was shut for five days after the last December attack, when a male swimmer suffered a “severe bite” close to his groin and was rushed by ambulance to a nearby hospital. One swimmer who has come to the cove for 50 years said he had never before heard of anything like the string of attacks.

Some officials have speculated that a single animal could be responsible for all of the attacks, but that hasn’t been confirmed. 

Sea lions and harbor seals are powerful enough to seriously harm a swimmer, according to Claire Simeone, a veterinarian at the Marine Mammal Center in the Marin Headlands, who has studied bites by the animals.

The area won’t be closed, but warning signs have been posted. The fire department is also urging people to swim in pairs and keep an eye out.

City agencies and the National Park Service are investigating the incident.