Minggu, 14 Maret 2021

Sea Lions Return: Frequent visitors in Columbia County - St. Helens Chronicle

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If you listen carefully, you might be able to hear the sea lions fishing along the Columbia River in St. Helens and occasionally you might be able to spot one or two seeking fish in the river.

In Rainier, dozens of the sea lions have taken up residency along the riverfront docks.

The Barkers

California sea lions have taken up space on this dock at Rainier along the Columbia River. They can be heard from miles as they bark back and fourth.

Feeding Time

The sea lions are frequent visitors to this dock at Rainier attracted by several different specifics of fish along the Columbia River.

“The sea lions have been frequent visitors here for the last four or five years, at least,” Rainier Mayor Jerry Cole said as he watched the large animals congregate on a portion of the docks along the Columbia River at Rainier.

Claiming the Dock

The sea lions have claimed this dock, adjacent to ships and boats, as a temporary home at Rainier.

Cole said the sea lions can cause damage to the docks, so the city has taken steps to mitigate the damage.

“We put up electric fences along the docks because they were causing several thousands of dollars worth of damage,” Cole said. “They were destroying part of the docks, making it unsafe for everyone.”

Cole said the electric fences, small pole-like devices approved for such prevention, are secured to the dock railings and have helped lessen the damage done by the sea lions.

“It gives the sea lions a zap, but they get over it,” he said.

While Cole said the sea lions can cause structural damage to the dock and eat away streams of fish, they are a public draw.

“Yes, people like coming to the docks to see them,” he said.

Cole said he’d like to see the city take advantage of the sea lions appearances by, perhaps, setting up a special area as some costal cities have done to enhance tourism.

The California sea lions are a federally protected species, according to NOAA Fisheries Public Affairs Officer Michael Milstein, who said the sea lions at Rainier and other parts of the Columbia River are virtually all male sea lions that spread out across the West Coast and as far north as Alaska during the winter and spring in search of food.

Fishing

This sea lion takes advantage of fishing in the Columbia River at Rainier.

“California sea lions breed in the Channel Islands off Southern California,” Milstein said. “While the females stay to feed their growing pups, males fan out in search of food to put on weight until they return to the Channel Islands for the next breeding season. They are smart enough to return to good fishing spots such as the Columbia.”

According to Milstein, the California sea lions are a conservation success.

“They have fully rebounded from the days when they were hunted and sometimes encouraged by bounties,” Milstein said. “Now they number more than 200,000 animals. However, it is also important to protect threatened and endangered salmon they may prey on. This is why we have authorized Oregon to manage sea lion numbers at Willamette Falls, for example, where they have preyed on native steelhead in danger of extinction.”

California sea lions are protected by the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act. However, there are provisions for deterring them in cases where they may be damaging property or fishing gear, according to Milstein.

“More recently, NOAA Fisheries last year authorized Oregon, Washington, and Idaho, as well as the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, the Yakama Nation, the Nez Perce Tribe, and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation to remove sea lions preying on protected salmon and steelhead in part of the mainstem Columbia River,” Milstein said. “This was based on the recommendation of a task force that included representatives of many different interests.”

Sea lions aren't the only wildlife spotted this month swimming along the Columbia River. Two fishermen said they spotted a gray whale Tuesday night, March 9, near Sauvie Island and Ridgefield, according to Portland's KGW TV News.

The fishermen posted video of the encounter on Facebook.

The Link Lonk


March 15, 2021 at 02:00AM
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Sea Lions Return: Frequent visitors in Columbia County - St. Helens Chronicle

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