Hawaii nursing Monk seal brutally attacks swimmer in shocking incident caught on video


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Shocking video showed a swimmer at a Hawaii beach being chased down and attacked in the water by a nursing mother Monk seal after the woman from California apparently came too close to her seal pup. 

The Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources released a statement recounting the brutal Sunday morning attack that left the female swimmer – a 60-year-old elementary school teacher from California – with lacerations to her face, back, and an arm. The ordeal began at about 8:30 a.m. an estimated 150 feet off Kaimana beach in Honolulu’s popular surfing district of Waikiki. 

The video depicts beachgoers shouting for the woman to get out of the water, as the mother seal lunges toward her head. A canoer arrives and blocks the seal, as the woman finally nears the shore. A few people grab the woman and carry her the rest of the way to the beach until the seal finally retreats. 

The state investigation showed that the woman “did nothing to provoke the incident.” 


“It was a brutal attack. It was rough to watch. At one point, Rocky’s mouth got a hold of her head, and she was trying to splash and get away. I could tell she was stunned,” witness Rosa Timberlake told KITV. 

“The seal saw the swimmer and raced toward her. People started screaming and yelled to call 911. Everyone was freaking out nobody knew what to do since there was no lifeguard on duty,” Timberlake’s daughter, Kaili Timberlake, also told the outlet, reacting to what she saw with her mom from the beach. 

Hawaiian Monk seal Rocky seen in water by beach after attack.

Before ocean safety lifeguards were in their tower, she and nine other swimmers entered the water with no seals visible on the beach or in the ocean. The woman’s husband was watching and recording from their 12th-floor condominium nearby before what was a normal morning swim took a turn. 

Apparently, around the same time, a Hawaiian monk seal named Rocky, who’s been monitored in the area after giving birth to a new pup about two weeks before, was by the Natatorium and woke up distressed and barking when she did not see her offspring. The pup had swum into the structure’s dilapidated former swimming pool, where the mother seal found it and the two were quickly reunited. 

But as the woman swam near the Natatorium, the angry mother seal went after her. 

“My wife had a swim cap on, and her head was in the water when both seals appeared,” the woman’s husband told state investigators recounting the ordeal captured on video. “She could not hear 50 or so people on the beach screaming for swimmers to get out of the water. She then stands up and hears the people screaming and waving at her. She starts swimming away from the seals.”

Aerial footage provided by the victim's husband to state investigators shows the swimmer attacked by a Hawaiian Monk seal. 

Aerial footage provided by the victim’s husband to state investigators shows the swimmer attacked by a Hawaiian Monk seal. 

“I’m thinking she’s going to die, by the time I get down to the beach. When I got there, three rescuers, including one in an outrigger canoe were bringing her to shore, while the seals were swimming toward them again,” he added. “There is no one to blame here. All my wife did was go swimming, and she happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

The couple has been in Hawaii for three weeks and said they were aware of the birth of the seal pup and read all the safe viewing signs and abide by them. 

As a teacher, the woman said she tells her students about conservation and has herself discarded fishhooks and saved sea turtles caught in fishing lines. 


In a statement after the attack, NOAA Fisheries, which manages wildlife preservation efforts, said it continues “to strongly urge swimmers and beach goers to stay at least 150 feet away from mother seals with pups.”

“While monk seals are generally not aggressive, mother seals can be very protective of their pups and have inflicted serious wounds on nearby swimmers,” the statement said. “We urge people to consider using alternate areas for water activities when mothers with pups are in the area.”

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