Californian tourists lean the hard way that sea lions may be cute, but they aren't your friends

Sea lion on beach at La Jolla, California
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Sea lions might look sweet, but they have a powerful bite and can lash out if threatened, so it's important to always give them plenty of space – unlike a group of beachgoers who were spotted in La Jolla, California recently. In a video shared online recently, the vacationers decided to stop beside a huge colony of sea lions basking on a beach, taking in turns posing for photos with the animals. The sea lions tolerate this behavior for a while, but after a woman almost sits on one creature's nose they become distressed, barking and sending her running.

The clip, which you can watch below, was shared last week via Instagram account TouronsOfNationalParks, which calls out bad behavior at sites of natural beauty around the world.

In California, sea lions are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, with NOAA Fisheries overseeing their conservation. 

"As humans interact more with seals and sea lions, they risk disturbing or injuring these animals," warns the government authority, which outlines rules for watching them safely and responsibly.

"Animals may become stressed and repeated interruptions by you and others may be harmful to their health or cause abandonment. Bring your binoculars and enjoy them from a safe viewing distance to protect their health and yours."

Sea lions also have a nasty bite, and like any other wild animal, they can lash out if they or their young are threatened. NOAA Fisheries specifically warns holidaymakers against trying to take selfies with the animals for this reason.

"They have sharp teeth, sharp claws, and are potentially dangerous and very capable of inflicting bodily harm. If they feel threatened, or stressed, they will react, and you do not want to be in their way if they do," say officials. "Obey federal law and resist the desire to get too close."

Cat Ellis

Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 15 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better), usually wearing at least two sports watches.