VALLEJO, CA - A trainer was bitten at least once by a sea lion at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom Friday afternoon.
According to park spokeswoman Nancy Chan, the veteran trainer was bitten on the leg sometime between 2:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. Monday afternoon. A press release said the staff was trying to determine why the animal bit her.
According to Chan, the sea lion is a 10-year-old male and has been at the park for four years after coming from a facility in Hawaii. The park did not the animal's name and he will not be in any shows as the situation is evaluated. The park has 11 sea lions, but many of them are exhibit animals only and do not participate in shows.
According to the press release, the trainer was "treated by paramedics at the park before being taken to a local hospital for further treatment and evaluation. It is unclear why the animal reacted adversely, and animal staff are reviewing the incident. The park is closed today and no guests were present."
The statement also said, "the trainer was given a tetanus shot, Neosporin and a Bandaid before being released."
UC Davis research biologist D. A. Giles said the trainer may have been very lucky.
"She's not still hospitalized as of now and so it could have been a heck of a lot worse," Giles said.
Giles said sea lions have large teeth and a powerful bite. She said there's growing awareness of the risk to the physical and mental health of animals in artificial park environments where they are expected to perform the same acts every day.
"The very fact of them doing these repeated behaviors over and over and over every day, every month, every year," Giles said. "I can absolutely see why that could lead to psychosis in some form."
The mental strain on the animals can be risky for humans, Giles added.
"We're putting trainers in a situation where they are being put in danger, in my opinion."
According to Chan, "this is a very rare and unusual situation. In seven years, this is a first."