Days may be Numbered
by Brian Barker
BONNEVILLE DAM - Despite bombs, boats and rubber bullets, dozens of sea lions are continuing to kill salmon near the Bonneville Dam.
This month, biologists are trying one last time to scare off the problem sea lions, but if that doesn't work, they may try to kill them.
Sea lions could kill as much as 10 percent of this spring's salmon run and biologists say if they cannot get the problem solved soon, the situation could get ugly.
The sea lions are just doing what comes naturally - finding a way to keep their bellies full.
The problem is that the salmon are disappearing. An estimated 8,000 salmon will be lost this spring at Bonneville Dam.
State wildlife officials are mounting an aggressive effort to scare the sea lions away from the dam. The effort is their last stab at solving the problem before they will have to consider killing the sea lions.
"The difficult part about it is we're trying to save the endangered salmon as they are going up past the dam, but you've got the Marine Mammal Protection Act that protects these marine mammals," says Bob Stansell, a Biologist with the Army Corps of Engineers.
The biggest violator is sea lion C-404. He has managed to penetrate the fish ladder at Bonneville Dam. Biologists say there are nearly 1,000 other sea lions hunting salmon in the Columbia River and they could conceivably kill 10 percent of the fish that come through the dam.
If the sea lions cannot be scared off, Oregon's Fish and Wildlife Commission has already applied for a permit to kill some of the problem sea lions, like C-404.
Killing the sea lions would be a last resort, but the idea is certainly a controversial one.
"Because they're so cute," says tourist Kristin Zubel. "They're not hurting anybody and there should be plenty of fish to go around."
The efforts to harass the sea lions enough to scare them away from Bonneville Dam will last through May.
Related Sites: About ODFW's efforts to control the sea lions
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