We're talking sea lions, the loud, funny-looking denizens of a dock off Pier 39.
The Port set up a new mesh barrier at Hyde Street Pier designed to keep the aggressive animals away from the boats and swimmers who frequent the waters near the San Francisco Aquatic Park, an area that used to be sea lion-free but has now become a hot spot for the marine mammals.
Thousands of tourists line up each day to gawk at the Rubenesque creatures sprawl across the floating decks at Pier 39, designed specifically for them. But apparently that real estate has become passé for some of the sea lions, as the herd has reached record numbers.
Port officials estimated that about 70 of them now moved on to areas like Hyde Street, where they pop in and out of the water onto the docks. Some have also designated themselves as swimming buddies for humans, getting a little too close for comfort at times.
"They're large animals,” said Mike Zuckerman, a boat owner. “But I've never felt threatened by them. I swim in the bay and there was that one nipping at Aquatic Park."
One tourist said he had the answer: "Put a sign up and say 'No sleeping on private property.' That would be very simple."
While the sea lions might be able to reenact War and Peace on the piers, it’s doubtful they could read it. So the sign might not be the best option.
A spokesman for the port said right now the barriers seem to be the answer. Only five feet of orange mesh and galvanized steel has been set up for this trial run. But if it proves to be successful about 200 more feet will be added, defining the watery prairie where sea lions may roam.