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Sea lion bites man sitting on boat railing in Sitka harbor

Zaz Hollander

A sea lion jumped out of the water Sunday in Sitka and bit the rear end of a 19-year-old sitting on the railing of a fishing boat, Alaska State Troopers said.

The man, who was not identified, was aboard the fishing vessel Confidence with his back to the water when a larger bull sea lion came out of the water and bit him, leaving several large scratch marks but no puncture wounds, troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters said. The man's injuries didn't require medical attention.

"Thankfully he was wearing rain gear or it would likely have been worse," Peters said in an email.

The vessel was offloading bait herring at Seafood Producers Cooperative. The co-op processes salmon, halibut, sablefish and albacore tuna, according to its website.

Authorities said they don't believe anyone aboard the Confidence was feeding the Steller sea lion when the attack occurred.

Instead, it's possible the animal has become used to people and may associate them with food.

"We don't know if this particular sea lion had an experience in the past where it would associate people with food and perhaps that's why it was aggressive," said Julie Speegle, Alaska region spokeswoman for the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Reports like this surface every few years in Alaska, Speegle said. In one, a fisherman in Petersburg in 2007 had a similar experience: a sea lion came out of the water and bit his backside as he was getting off the edge of his boat as it unloaded halibut. A 19-year-old man got hauled into the King Cove harbor in 2004 by a sea lion that lurched out of the water, chomped onto the seat of his pants, and yanked him backward into the water. He wasn't seriously injured.

Troopers urged people around the docks in Sitka to use caution and encouraged fishermen and hunters to dispose of fish and animal waste properly by not dumping carcasses or scraps in the harbor.

To report aggressive sea lion behavior in Sitka, contact the Alaska Wildlife Trooper's Sitka Post at (907) 747-3254 or the National Marine Fisheries Service at (907) 586-7225.

Reach Zaz Hollander at zhollander@adn.com or 257-4317.

 


By ZAZ HOLLANDER
zhollander@adn.com