Pier 39 plans party fit for a sea lion 

The famous sea lions at Pier 39 may have skipped town for their first party, but their human fans are pretty sure they will be around for this one.

In January, Pier 39 attempted to throw a party in honor of the 20th anniversary of the mammals’ arrival at the tourist mecca, according to spokeswoman Sue Muzzin. Sea lions first showed up at the pier in January 1990.

Though the population of the animals is normally more sparse at the pier in midwinter than at other times, party organizers had good reason to believe there would still be at least a small crowd of the mammoth guests of honor on the piers around the anniversary — in November, some 1,700 had been counted there, far more than the average 300 to 500 that are typically in the area around that time of year, Muzzin said.

But by the time the festivities arrived, nary a sea lion could be found, she said. Around the same time, mammal-watchers in Oregon noted a bigger-than-usual crowd of sea lions, and scientists theorized that perhaps the animals had migrated north to follow a food source.

Fortunately, the exodus did not last long. The mammals have slowly returned, and there has been a steady crowd of between 150 and 300 sea lions near Pier 39 in recent weeks, Muzzin said.

So the anniversary party is back on — albeit four months late — between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. May 21. Guests will be provided party hats and cupcakes and can hear talks by naturalists about the massive mammals.

kworth@sfexaminer.com

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Katie Worth

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