CHIBA – Crowds flocked Tuesday to a beach in Sanmu, Chiba Prefecture, for an unusual sight: a sea lion several hundred kilometers from its usual waters.
The Steller sea lion lumbered ashore at Kujukuri Beach after several of the animals were spotted in the area over the weekend.
“I was surprised it was so big,” said Akemi Furuya, 34, a sightseer who brought her two children to see the animal. “I’m worried it may be weakened,” she added.
Steller sea lions are a common sight in the waters off Hokkaido but are seldom found so far south.
Staff at the Kamogawa Sea World Aquarium in Chiba Prefecture said the sea lion, possibly the largest of the group, is likely female. It measures more than 2 meters in length and is so skinny its ribs are showing.
Sightings of sea lions along the coast of the Boso Peninsula began coming in to the Sanmu Municipal Government on Sunday.
On Tuesday morning, the animal was seen relaxing on the beach, looking out to sea and stretching in the sun at the edge of the surf.
Officials roped off the area and kept a watch as locals and tourists gathered to take photos from outside the barricade.
They and staff from Kamogawa Aquarium planned to try to catch the animal and administer a health check.