Ore­gon be­gins killing sea lions af­ter re­lo­ca­tion fails

Sun.Star Pampanga - - SCIENCE - 12 ORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Ore­gon wildlife of­fi­cials have started killing Cal­i­for­nia sea lions that threaten a frag­ile and unique type of trout in the Wil­lamette River, a body of wa­ter that’s miles in­land from the coastal ar­eas where the mas­sive car­niv­o­rous

The state De­part­ment of Fish and Wildlife ob­tained a fed­eral per­mit in Novem­ber to kill up to 93 Cal­i­for­nia sea lions an­nu­ally be­low Wil­lamette Falls south of Port­land, Ore­gon, to pro­tect the win­ter run of the fish that be­gin life as rain­bow trout but be­come steel­head when they travel to the ocean.

As of last week, wildlife man­agers have killed three of the an­i­mals us­ing traps they used last year to re­lo­cate the sea lions, said Bryan Wright, project man­ager for the Ore­gon De­part­ment of Fish and Wildlife’s ma­rine re­sources pro­gram.

The adult male sea lions, which weigh nearly 1,000 pounds (454 kilo­grams) each, have learned that they can loi­ter un­der the falls and snack on the vul­ner­a­ble steel­head as the fish power their way up­river to the streams where they hatched.

The trout travel to sea from in­land rivers, grow to adult­hood as steel­head in the Pa­cific Ocean and then re­turn to their natal river to spawn. They can grow to 55 pounds and live up to 11 years.

The sea lions breed each sum­mer off South­ern Cal­i­for­nia and north­ern Mex­ico, then the males cruise up the Pa­cific Coast to for­age. Hunted for their thick fur, the mam­mals’ num­bers dropped dra­mat­i­cally but have re­bounded from 30,000 in the late 1960s to about 300,000 to­day be­cause of the 1972 Ma­rine Mam­mal Pro­tec­tion Act.

With their num­bers grow­ing, the dog-faced sea lions are ven­tur­ing ever farther in­land up the Columbia River and its trib­u­taries in Ore­gon and Wash­ing­ton — and their ap­petite is hav­ing dis­as­trous con­se­quences, sci­en­tists have said.

Last win­ter, a record-low 512 wild win­ter steel­head com­pleted the jour­ney past the Wil­lamette Falls, ac­cord­ing to state counts. Less than 30 years ago, that num­ber was more than 15,000.

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