- Associated Press - Friday, May 1, 2015

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - Oregon and Washington temporarily suspended sea lion trapping operations at Bonneville Dam after two animals were accidentally killed.

A malfunction caused a trap door to close with nine California and Steller sea lions inside. Biologists found the dead sea lions when they opened the door to free them at 3:45 a.m. Wednesday, said Rick Hargrave, spokesman for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

A 1,500-pound Steller sea lion crushed the 350- to 400-pound California sea lions, a veterinarian determined.

The states have federal authorization to remove and euthanize California sea lions seen preying on Columbia River salmon. Fourteen have died by lethal injection so far this year, Hargrave said.

The electromagnetically operated doors on the four Bonneville traps are typically kept open and then closed remotely - like a garage-door opener - when a sea lion on the list for lethal removal appears.

The dead sea lions were not on the list.

“All the other animals in that trap were released,” Hargrave said Friday. “We didn’t hold any animals. We just opened the door, released the animals and then tended to the two dead ones.”

An incident report has been submitted to NOAA Fisheries, and the states temporarily suspended trapping to review operating procedures. The program will likely resume early next week, Hargrave said.

It appears loose wires caused the malfunction, Hargrave said.

A similar incident happened in May 2008, when six sea lions died after being trapped in a cage. The design of the trap door was then changed from rope-and-latch to electromagnetic.


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