Sea Lion Put to Death
by Joe English
BONNEVILLE DAM - A sea lion, who wildlife officials say has eaten too many salmon at the Bonneville Dam in the Columbia River Gorge, was trapped and euthanized Wednesday, a fate that could await other sea lions this year.
The sea lion that was euthanized has been tagged before and was taken away in one of four traps that officials have put out for problem California sea lions.
"That first time they're caught and branded, they'll be released," said Jessica Sall of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. "So that the second time we get them on the trap we'll have a record that they have been trapped more than once, and they have been observed repeatedly feeding on the chinook salmon."
The Army Corps of Engineers watch the river, take notes, and identify sea lions they see again and again.
In the past two years, 25 sea lions were removed and four were relocated to other facilities. This year no one is looking for a homeless sea lion but Sall said if someone does "and we can get all the paperwork taken care of to have them transferred, we certainly look forward to doing that."
The traps will operate three days a week. So far 64 sea lions have been tagged as problems, and officials with ODFW said they won't guess how many they will catch. But they said they hear from people that even one is too many.
"We hate to have to choose between the species, but we are charged with trying to protect the most threatened species. In this case that's the spring chinook salmon," said Sall.
The salmon are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. That act takes precedence over the Marine Mammal Act which the sea lions fall under.
The trapping will run through about mid-May when the spring fish run is over and the sea lions move south for their breeding season.
"At the end of this year we'll take the results back to a special task force and they'll analyze the results and will decide if we should renew the program or not," Sall said.
In addition to the trapping of sea lions, hazing them with noisemakers from the banks and boats on the river will continue.
Report: Sea Lion Kill Hasn't Reduced Salmon Toll by Associated Press, KATU, 11/9/9
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