"And then they came for us, like dragons from 'Game of Thrones'..."

So goes the story of what is arguably the most hilarious seaside skirmish of the year. New Zealand surfers Albee Layer and Kain Daly recently found themselves running for cover when a morning wave-riding session was interrupted by a pair of ornery sea lions. Not only did the pinniped duo chase the human "invaders" from the water, but the pursuit also continued down the sand!

It's no surprise the two Kiwis initially mistook one of the sea lions for a large shark. Despite their "sea puppy" nickname, New Zealand (or "Hooker's") sea lions, Phocarctos hookeri, can weigh in at an impressive 400 kilograms (about 900 pounds). And they pack a mean bite.

Layer's decision to place his surfboard in the way of the charging animals was a smart move, and we're glad to see the surfers didn't try to stand their ground more than once. (Just last week, a sea lion in California bit a swimmer near the San Fransisco Bay, the second such incident in recent months.) 

Self-preservation aside, there's another reason to give New Zealand's sea lions a wide berth: with a population of just 12,000, these animals are listed as endangered by the IUCN.

Breeding season typically starts in November, so it's very possible that these animals were defending their territory more aggressively than usual. At this time of year, younger males will hang around known haul-outs and rookeries, waiting for their chance to sneak a genetic contribution past any dominant bulls. The animals in the video may have been two such males, or – since pupping begins in early December – a pair of large females who were getting ready to give birth (or had just done so).

Should you find yourself in a similar situation, the best course of action is to back away calmly – but quickly! 



Top header image: Jake Osborne/Flickr