California Sea Lions, Full of Spring Chinook,
by Ted Sickinger
Phew! The Californians have departed, again.
We're talking sea lions here folks, the gang of predatory pinnipeds that sit below the Bonneville Dam and munch on our spring Chinook run.
There's actually two varieties, California Sea Lions and Stellar Sea Lions. Now that they've had their fill of salmon, all but a few stragglers have gone back south for mating season. What a life.
According to Robert Stansell, a fish biologist with the Army Corps of Engineers, the sea lions showed up a bit late and left early this season, perhaps because they were already full of smelt.
But it was a concentrated buffet for a short two to three week period. Stansell said in an email blast to interested parties that the estimated salmon predation at Bonneville is over 3,300 so far. That's high, but with the big spring run of Chinook, it will put the percentage of the run taken below 2 percent for the season.
The salmon predation at Bonneville has become a bigger deal in the last decade, and it has coincided with a recent explosion in the California Sea Lion population that has left some communities complaining that there pleasant coves have become sea lion cesspools.
The Corps runs a removal program - read trap and generally euthanize - at Bonneville. It removed 15 sea lions this year, none in the last two weeks.
So until next season, its sayonara seal lions. Oh, and watch out for the white sharks.
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