SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- Activists say more needs to be done to protect sea lions along the La Jolla coast after they say one was died after harassment by people last week.
Members of the Sierra Club Seal Society, a group that attempts to monitor crowds near the animals in La Jolla and seek to educate people about keeping their distance, say a large group was spotted harassing a year-old sea lion last Tuesday evening.
“They pushed this yearling against the rocks there and they probed it and poked it and it couldn’t get away," said Carol Archibald. The sea lion was found dead the next morning. The Seal Society suspects it suffered a fatal spine injury during the harassment.
The group says they have spotted a dramatic increase in the number of people approaching, touching, and abusing the animals during the pandemic.
“What we need is a full-time ranger there," said Archibald. "And we also need a night guard in the evenings so the sea lions can be protected.”
At a Tuesday morning press conference, San Diego City Councilman Joe LaCava urged the public to keep their distance from the animals.
“We will be reinstituting our park rangers, and we have a program for summer interns that will be our eyes and ears,” he said Tuesday.
Prior to the pandemic, rangers were frequently present in the area, and interns were also involved as an extra set of eyes on what was going on.
In an interview with ABC 10News Monday, LaCava said there's been a surge of people to La Jolla beaches who may not be regular visitors because the beaches have been open for most of the pandemic. Unfortunately, he said the pandemic also led to shortages in city staff, including in the park ranger department.
“We need to have more official voices out there guiding the public, educating them," he told ABC 10News.
The city will also be putting in more signage and stenciling to warn people to keep their distance from the sea lions.
“We want to make sure that they have a safe, enjoyable time when they come, and that we protect the wildlife while we’re doing that," LeCava said.
It’s not unusual to see families trying to snap a picture with the sea lions in La Jolla especially during pupping season. But sometimes people get too close to the animals.
ABC10News has also learned the Animal Protection and Rescue League is taking legal action against those individuals and corporations that are planning on blasting fireworks over La Jolla Cove on the Fourth of July. The complaint cites this will harm newborn sea lion pups and the environment.
Archibald said while she’s happy to hear about the city’s plans, she believes the question now is how long will it take to implement these changes.