Do Sea Lions Attack Kayaks?

Sea lions are classified as eared seals and are noisy social animals. Their big liquid brown eyes appeal to people who forget that this large aquatic mammal is still wild. Kayakers love to paddle among wildlife, and for many kayakers, this is the reason for their sport. Sometimes these interactions might go awry but do sea lions often attack kayaks?

Sea lions do not usually attack kayaks, but some incidences have been reported. Breeding sea lion bulls are territorial and may attack a kayak. Mothers with young protect them by keeping strange visitors away and may attack a kayak if she views it as a threat or it separates her from the pups.

Kayakers often choose to paddle around the shorelines, visiting different bays and rocky outcroppings. These spots are also popular with sea lions, and their paths will inevitably intersect at some point. What happens then depends on several factors. 

Are Sea Lions Aggressive?

Sea lions are generally mammals curious about their environment and more likely to investigate it than attack. Reports of sea lion attacks are rare, but there have been some unprovoked attacks. 

There can be behavioral differences between sea lions accustomed to human presence and those that seldom encounter people. Sea lions acclimated to people have less fear and will be more likely to attack under some circumstances. 

Sea lions have impressive canine teeth to catch fish, squid, octopus, and other sea life. But, despite the size of their teeth and the power of their jaw, which could easily inflict nasty injuries, they rarely bite people. 

What Could Provoke A Sea Lion To Attack A Kayaker?

Although sea lions are regularly described as being non-aggressive, they are still wild animals and, as such, are unpredictable. Therefore, there are some times of the year or scenarios when they might be more aggressive. 

Breeding in animals is a time of heightened arousal and more aggressive displays, and sea lions are no exception. Male sea lions can become very territorial during breeding. As a result, they may be inclined to take a dim view of kayaks in their territory. 

They usually give warning barks initially and do mock charges at the kayak. Keeping a safe distance away from the sea lion is a good idea if you hear a sea lion barking at you. 

Sea lion mothers with young pups are protective and chase away intruders, including kayaks. They also use sharp barks to express their displeasure. Getting between a mother sea lion and her pups could result in an altercation. 

Abnormal Sea Lion Attacks May Be The Result Of Toxins

Researchers have discovered that sea lions are susceptible to domoic acid poisoning. 

Domoic acid is produced by algae known as Pseudonitzschia australis. The algae are consumed by shellfish and other small ocean fish. 

Sea lions eat enormous quantities of these shellfish and other small fish. This results in a toxic overload of domoic acid. The toxin is flushed from the system, but unfortunately, sea lions have repeated chronic exposure, negatively affecting their health. 

Domoic acid attacks the brain, neurological tissue, and heart. The deteriorating brain gives rise to unusual behavior and may result in unprovoked attacks on kayaks.  

If you see a sea lion behaving unusually, biting random objects, staggering, weaving, startling for no apparent reason, you should beware. It is best to get away as quickly as possible and report the sea lion to the nearest authorities. 

The sea lion may suffer from domoic poisoning or contracted rabies. Rabies is a hazardous disease that can result in aggressive behavior. Rabies is a fatal disease in both people and animals. 

Fishing Kayaks And Sea Lions

Many people choose to fish on the sea from their kayaks. Unfortunately, sea lions may view the fisherman’s catch as their personal food store. Numerous incidents relate to how sea lions hopped up onto the boat to help themselves to the catch of the day.

The sea lion is not attacking the kayak in this situation but is taking advantage of an easy meal. However, the kayaker may get bitten if he tries to stop the sea lion from taking the fish or uses his hands to push the sea lion off the kayak. 

This situation arises more commonly when sea lions have been habituated to people and have lost their fear. Sometimes the sea lions also bump the kayak while they steal fish from the fisherman’s line or as the fish is being reeled in. 

What Should I Do If A Sea Lion Gets On My Kayak?

If a sea lion jumps onto your kayak and is not attacking you, it is best to ignore it and continue paddling. The sea lion will hopefully move off as the kayak moves. 

If the sea lion is on your kayak and is aggressive, throw any fish you have into the water and paddle away as quickly as possible. Although this is not ideal as it teaches the sea lion to associate kayakers with food, you need to avoid being bitten. 

If the sea lion on your kayak is not aggressive, but your kayak is in danger of tipping, try slapping the kayak with your paddle and giving a sharp shout in a loud, deep voice. Sea lions bark in warning, and the sea lion may understand that you are giving a ‘warning bark’ and remove itself from the kayak.  

Be cautious of hitting the sea lion as it may provoke it to attack. If the sea lion is persistent and becoming more aggressive or endangering you, try letting off an emergency flare if you have one. 

It is essential to prevent your kayak from tipping or capsizing. Sometimes sea lions might jump onto a kayak to avoid oceanic predators such as the Great White Shark. You do not want to land in the water with unknown predators possibly lurking under the surface. 

Final Word

Sea lions rarely attack kayaks but may be curious and investigate the kayak. They may be attracted to fishing kayaks because they smell the fish and want to cut in on the haul. 

It is always best to keep a reasonable distance between your kayak and wildlife. This ensures both you and the animals are safe. 

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