Sunday, January 13, 2019

Carnivores in Richmond

Carnivores are interesting, and it's not just because I am one.  They need to use a combination of physical strength, mental acuity, speed, and all round evolutionary ingenuity to overcome another animal, just to survive.  Commonly, they risk their own safety just to eat, and have to overcome some amount of fear that the victim could fight back, causing an injury that could eventually lead to death by not being able to hunt.

Humans are understandably cautious around other carnivores.  They threaten our own safety, or the safety of our pets and livestock. In cities such as Vancouver, large carnivores get pushed out to the boundaries where forest meets subdivision. In Richmond, coyotes might come to mind as one of our largest carnivores, hanging out on the ocean side of the dyke in the tidal marsh.  What if I told you that coyotes weren't the largest?  "Humans, of course," you'd grin.  "No, even bigger."  "In present day?" "Yes, in present day".

Until a whale or dolphin swims into Richmond (which I'm sure has happened, just not in recent memory), I submit to you, the sea lion.

This one in Steveston was a California sea lion, I suspect, as they have longer snouts than the larger stellar sea lions. The males tip the scales at almost 800 pounds (the steller sea lions are gargantuan, at over 2000 pounds), making them much larger than a typical 250 pound black bear on the North Shore. Yet despite this size and sharp teeth, we somehow disassociate them from being predators.  Lacking feet, we think of them as awkward on land.  With most of their sleek body hidden underwater, we don't realize how large these animals actually are, and their capability to inflict harm. Years of seeing them perform tricks alongside humans have acclimatized us into thinking that they want nothing more than to hear applause for their comedic timing. And if I said the word "seal", the cartoon image in your head would surely include a multicoloured beach ball.  We think of them as tame, resulting in unfortunate encounters like this, which happened not far from where I took the above photo.

To be fair, attacks on humans on land are rare.  But given their size and speed, this largest carnivore that frequents our city boundaries demands a healthy respect.

1 comment:

Bella Sinclair said...

I remember that incident with the girl, poor thing. 800 lbs, let alone 2000 lbs, is no joke. Heck, I'd be afraid of an 800 lb dog, lest he sit on me.