Stranded Sea Lion Spooks Sightseers on Dark Oregon Coast Beach
(Lincoln City, Oregon) – Lurking in the dark of a Lincoln City beach late Thursday night was a growling, snarling beast, hidden in a pitch black corner where no one could see it. Then out of that darkness comes the shrill screams of two girls running in fear, which then turns to laughter at the absurdity of it all.
A new creepy horror movie? Nope, just another incident of nature posing some surprises.
That creature was a stranded sea lion, which for some reason decided to take five beneath the concrete wall at the D River beach access. At 11 p.m., a few people were wandering this rather unruly beach, including one dog. Oddly, none of them noticed, and they and the dog wandered off.
A little while later, as Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff were taking night photographs, a pair of young women began wandering the beach. They started screaming and running, then began laughing.
“There's a big seal down there,” they said. “It barked at us.”
Indeed, there it was, huddling next to the concrete wall in a very dark spot where it could not be seen until you got so close it would either bark at you – or maybe take your arm off. But this wasn't a mere seal – it was a sea lion.
Jim Rice, of the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport and head of the Marine Mammal Stranding Network, said it was a sub-adult male California sea lion.
“I sent a volunteer out to look for him this morning and she couldn’t find anything near the D River wayside,” Rice said. “He likely went back out.”
Rice, and Seaside Aquarium manager Keith Chandler, said this is not unusual at all.
“It’s not unusual for sea lions to come ashore to rest on Oregon beaches,” Rice said. “I suspect he just wanted a little R and R. People often assume a seal or sea lion is sick or injured when it’s on the beach, but in most cases a sighted animal will go back into the water with the next high tide. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to make much of a distinction between 'people beaches' and more remote ones.”
Chandler, whose crew is part of the Marine Mammal Stranding Network in Seaside, Cannon Beach and points north, said they see this all the time. Whenever they need a rest, they just plop down on the beach – whatever beach that may be.
Chandler said sea lions can be quite aggressive.
“I imagine they'd have a bite like a bear,” Chandler said.
However, usually what they do when you get too close is simply bark at you and run away.
Lincoln City Visitors Center director Sandy Pfaff said the town has had a history of welcoming such beasts in the past, such as the curious bit of history regarding a sea lion that became a member of the community – before Lincoln City even existed and was actually just a series of smaller towns near each other.
“There was Joe the sea lion who lived in The Taft Historic District decades ago when it was the town of Taft,” Pfaff said. “Joe was a familiar and benign, beloved resident.”
Below: the D River wayside as it looked Thursday in a more high resolution photograph.
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