Surfer bitten by sea lion near Manhattan Beach pier

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Posted by on June 11, 2005 at 02:55:11:

Incident prompts marine officials to renew warnings for beachgoers to avoid beached animals

A sick 200-pound sea lion bit a surfer who walked within 5 feet of it Friday near the Manhattan Beach Pier, prompting a renewed warning to stay away from animals that beach themselves.

The sea lion, which had been charging at people on the beach, waddled back into the water and swam away.

The surfer, Josh Duncan, 27, required a new wet suit, along with stitches and a tetanus shot for an inch-long wound to his leg, lifeguards said.

The sea lion was among four to eight a day that have beached themselves locally during the past week because of domoic poisoning, a toxin produced by algae, said Peter Wallerstein of the Whale Rescue Team.

Lifeguard Capt. Mike Cunningham said the sea lion came ashore about noon and showed symptoms of poisoning.

"It's almost like they are hallucinating," Cunningham said. "This particular sea lion was showing the signs of that. It began

to charge people and chase them away from himself."

Duncan came out of the water, walked to within 5 feet of the sea lion and motioned to a friend to join him.

The sea lion charged and bit him on the thigh, right through the wet suit.

Lifeguards treated him and advised him to seek medical attention. Cunningham said people should stay 25 feet from sea lions and other beached animals and contact lifeguards.

Wallerstein said he has been very busy rescuing sea lions from Pacific Palisades to Long Beach for four or five days.

On Friday, he took three to the Marine Mammal Care Center in San Pedro, where the animals are given fluids and other treatment, allowing them to recuperate before being released back into the wild.

"When these sea lions need to come to the beach, people need to give them some room," he said. "They are coming out of the water to survive. Just give them space."

Wallerstein said last year the Whale Rescue Team rescued 165 sea lions. It has already reached that total this year.

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