A community in Oregon has attempted to use a fake whale to scare away a population of sea lions, yet the operation ended up marred with setbacks that left the dummy orca floating belly up in a harbor.
Sea lions have become a major problem in Astoria, Oregon, according to the Telegraph, and efforts to keep them away have repeatedly failed. Officials note that they have employed electric mats and beach balls to ward away the animals, to little effect. While they usually show up every February in Astoria, this year, the sea lions simply didn't leave.
— Ken Christensen (@kentensen) June 5, 2015
With thousands of jobs at risk in the community due to the hundreds of sea lions, Astoria's officials have employed a novel solution. They recently reached out to Island Mariner, a whale watching cruise company from Bellingham Washington, and are currently using the company's 32-foot-long fake orca in an attempt to scare the animals away. The fake whale is actually a licensed boat in the state of Oregon and emits recorded whale songs, including one that indicates an orca has killed a sea lion. The orca is motorized and sports a single operator inside.
A fake orca capsizes, failing to scare sea lions from Oregon docks: http://t.co/arjBp91eff pic.twitter.com/VbdGWFV4bM
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) June 5, 2015
Officials hoped to use the fake orca to frighten the sea lions on Thursday, but the vessel's motor flooded. After it was repaired, the whale was used for a sneak attack on the sea lions Thursday evening, yet the wake of a passing cargo ship swamped the orca, turning it belly up and forcing authorities to rescue the operator before he drowned.
"You can't make this stuff up," Port of Astoria executive director Jim Knight observed.
Fake Orca scared Ore. sea lions... until it almost sank: http://t.co/bvpe0Pz8jm pic.twitter.com/M5Ycs1VX5y
— The Seattle Times (@seattletimes) June 5, 2015
The fake whale appeared to have an effect on the unwanted animal population, however, and Knight observed that the sea lions became "deathly silent" upon viewing the orca. As the Guardian notes, the sea lions numbered around 500 on Thursday morning, yet by the evening, only around 200 remained in the area.
BREAKING: Fake Orca has capsized. Pilot has been rescued safely. pic.twitter.com/XJt5VQIbsS
— Joshua Bessex (@Bessex_Joshua) June 5, 2015
Orcas are not only frightening to sea lions, but also to other oceanic predators as well. Last year, a tour group from the Neptune Islands observed a pod of orcas attacking and killing a great white shark. As the Inquisitr previously reported, the whales' presence frightened the local shark population away for weeks thereafter.
While Knight acknowledged that the local sea lion population is dwindling as the animals seek new food sources, he noted that they will return again in August. Officials said that they may try again to utilize the orca on Friday, once the fake whale is dried out and repaired.
[Photo by AP via the Daily Mail]