Protective Monk Seal Attacks Swimmer Who Got Too Close

The 60-year-old woman suffered lacerations to her face, arm, and back
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 26, 2022 4:12 PM CDT

A swimmer at a beach in Waikiki was injured this weekend after encountering an endangered Hawaiian monk seal known as Rocky and her young pup. The Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources said in a statement that the victim is a 60-year-old elementary school teacher from California. A witness shared video of the encounter with the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. The footage shows the mother seal in the water with its pup as the swimmer approaches. The seal then charges at the swimmer multiple times and pulls her underwater. The woman received lacerations to her face, arm, and back and was able to make it back to shore with help from bystanders.

State officials said they would not recommend charges or fines for the woman since the attack was unprovoked. The Hawaii Marine Animal Response said in a statement to the AP that the seal gave birth to a pup about two weeks ago on Kaimana Beach in Waikiki, the same area where the swimmer was injured. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Hawaii Marine Animal Response have been watching the pair and warning people to stay away; the shoreline where the seals live is roped off, and Hawaii News Now reports signs about the seals have been posted in the area for weeks.

People are told to stay at least 150 feet away from a mother seal and pup, though that recommendation is not a law. The woman and her husband told officials the seals were elsewhere when she and other swimmers entered the water; she was lap swimming about 150 feet from shore when the seals started swimming toward her. "My wife had a swim cap on, and her head was in the water when both seals appeared. She could not hear 50 or so people on the beach screaming for swimmers to get out of the water," her husband said. "I'm thinking she's going to die." NOAA Fisheries anticipates the seals will remain in the area for about a month.

(More animal attack stories.)

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