13-year-old girl bitten by sea lion in ‘very rare’ attack at California beach

A 13-year-old girl was bitten in the leg by a sea lion at Pismo Beach along California’s Central Coast last Friday, and suffered a “pretty nasty injury.”

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife told the San Luis Obispo Tribune the attack was a “complete surprise” and sea lion attacks are “very rare.”

“It’s a pretty nasty injury,” Capt. Todd Tognazzini said. “She looks like she’s healing quickly.”

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“I remember feeling it on my leg and absolutely freaking out,” Megan Pagnini said in a video for Inside Edition. “All I remember is just falling and it finally letting go and just running back as fast as I possibly could back to shore where my friends were, and just screaming and crying.”

In the video, the sea lion can be seen exiting the surf and biting Pagnini’s leg as she stands knee-deep in the waves.

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According to the San Luis Obispo Tribune, Fish and Wildlife officer personnel arrived at the beach not long after the attack and found a sea lion biting random objects on the beach including sticks and the metal base of the lifeguard tower. Officials believe it was the same sea lion that bit the girl.

Tognazzini said the sea lion was an adult female exhibiting symptoms of domoic acid poisoning, which occurs when marine animals consume fish that have eaten toxic algae. Symptoms of the poisoning include seizures and erratic behavior.

Pagini was given antibiotics, and the sea lion was brought to The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito.

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Shawn Johnson, the center’s vice president of veterinary medicine and science, said the center has taken in two dozen sea lions suffering from domoic acid poisoning from San Luis Obispo County over the past 10 days, and warned beach-goers to beware.

“We had an event in the last 10 days and it’s starting to slow down,” Johnson told the San Luis Obispo Tribune. “We’re fully being prepared for another one of these events to happen during the summer.”

Eric Ting is an SFGATE staff writer. Email: eric.ting@sfgate.com | Twitter:@_ericting

This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/sea-lion-attack-Pismo-Beach-13-year-old-poisoning-14025655.php.

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