San Diego tourists, residents and drivers rallied together this week to protect an unusual pedestrian: a happy-go-lucky sea lion taking a break from the ocean.
The female sea lion bopped through a throng of bystanders Monday, making her way from Fisherman’s Landing all the way to Rosecrans Street, two blocks away, San Diego police said.
After successfully crossing the busy intersection, the marine mammal took a slight turn toward the Sand ’n’ Sea liquor store on Garrison Street. Employees joked that, like many of the store’s customers, the sea lion was taking its shot at the lottery.
“The sea lion was acting like a little dog, belly up,” said Angel De La Paz, who works at Sand ’n’ Sea. “It was as if it was putting on a show.”
The animal was clearly enjoying herself, as she scratched her back on the pavement, basked in the sunlight and strolled down the street. Video showed that at one point, the sea lion stopped for a rest and closed her eyes as bystanders sang the animal a lullaby: Seal’s “Kiss From a Rose.”
Before police and SeaWorld rescuers arrived, a crowd had chaperoned the sea lion as she crossed Rosecrans. Two men stopped a truck they were driving to retrieve green netting from the vehicle, which they held up to keep the sea lion protected, De La Paz said.
Meanwhile, bystanders directed traffic around the animal, who appeared to be in no rush to return to the water.
”We see them sometimes on the dock,” De La Paz said. “They hang out by Mitch’s, a seafood place across the street, but never as far as here.”
SeaWorld employees eventually captured the meandering marine mammal with nets and placed her in a cage, while the crowd erupted in applause.
On Tuesday, the 175-pound animal was doing well at SeaWorld’s rescue center, where she swam and ate live fish in a pool, spokesman David Koontz said.
SeaWorld plans to release the sea lion to the ocean after several days of monitoring.
“It is impossible to say why this sea lion decided to travel so far away from the water,” Koontz said. “While is a somewhat unusual, in the past, SeaWorld has rescued sea lions from the driveways and porches of peoples’ homes, from outdoor eating areas at hotels, parking lots, and, in 2016, from inside a San Diego-area restaurant.”