- Associated Press - Thursday, May 28, 2015

ASTORIA, Ore. (AP) - The Port of Astoria is trying a more playful approach to keep sea lions off its docks: beach balls.

A resident suggested the colorful balls as a deterrent after discovering that sea lions, unlike seals, are afraid of them, reports the Daily Astorian (https://bit.ly/1KAlFYp ).

Sea lions scatter on Sunday when resident Bill MacDonald and Port staff carried the inflatable toys onto the docks or tossed them off the causeway.

The Port’s executive director, Jim Knight, used twine to string up the multicolored balls he bought for $1 each.

“The idea is to just tie up some of these cheap things along the docks,” MacDonald explained, comparing the practice to putting milk jugs on fences to keep deer out.

By Tuesday evening, only one or two sea lions braved beach ball-strewn docks.

The Port has previously tried colorful surveying tape, chicken wire and electrified mats to keep the sea lions away.

Its most recent attempts include not only beach toys but a 36-foot fiberglass orca, which is expected to arrive mid-June.

The whale was is an advertisement by Island Mariner, which runs a whale-watching tour out of Bellingham, Washington. Terry Buzzard, the company’s owner, is working on making the orca remote-controlled.

He said the whale had unintentionally scared away sea lions in Bellingham.

“We were playing with it, and it seemed to scare the sea lions away,” said Buzzard. “They left, but we don’t have any reason why. That’s why I told Jim, ‘I’m not making any promises.’”

The sea lion population has boomed since the animal was covered under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The creatures still draw visitors to the docks, but other people consider them a nuisance.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Law Enforcement in Portland is investigating reports of dead and injured sea lions that appear to have been shot.

The Sea Lion Defense Brigade, which monitors the animals from Astoria to Bonneville Dam, reported finding 11 shell casings from a .44-caliber weapon and a sea lion with a serious eye wound at the basin last week. The NOAA study was launched after the same group reported finding 19 casings from a .306-caliber weapon about a month ago.

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Information from: The Daily Astorian, https://www.dailyastorian.com


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