Fake orca flops as sea lion scarecrow John Wifler, the pilot of the fake fiberglass orca, is pulled from the capsized vessel in the Columbia River outside of the East End Mooring Basin in Astoria, Oregon (AP photos)
Fake orca flops as sea lion scarecrow

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An effort to use a fake, life-sized orca to scare off hundreds of sea lions crowding docks off the Oregon coast ended, at least temporarily, with the fiberglass creature belly-up. It was swamped by a passing ship.

Still, Port of Astoria Executive Director Jim Knight said the sea lions briefly "got deathly silent." That was when the orca sailed into view. And just before it started listing and tipped over.

"There's a chance we'll do it again," Knight said. But first, the 32-foot killer whale replica must be dried out. And it needs to be repaired.

Earlier, officials had to find a replacement motor for the fake orca. It actually was a boat with a driver inside. The fake orca belongs to a whale watching business. It was brought overland from Bellingham, Washington.

Sea lions have become a nuisance to Astoria and commercial fishermen. That's because they damage docks. They also prevent boaters from using the docks. And, the sea lions eat lots of salmon.

Knight took the day's adventure in stride. He called it "a learning experience."

Once equipped with the replacement motor, the fake orca "was going fairly well. And then a cargo ship came by and its wake swamped the whale," he said. "Our crew from the port had to go rescue the operator so he didn't drown."

"You can't make this stuff up," he added.

He estimates 1,000 people showed up to watch. They applauded as the bogus whale took to the water.

As for the sea lions, there may have been an effect beyond their brief silence. Knight said there were 400 to 500 sea lions the morning of June 4. By that night, there were perhaps 200. That was when the fake orca was tied up to the docks. It's where the sea lions rest.

"They probably think it's dead now that it's belly up."

Knight wishes the orca had gotten a chance to play its recordings of real killer whale calls. In particular, the "call to dinner." It is usually emitted in the wild after they kill a sea lion or seal.

The original plan called for the orca to be driven around in the waters near Astoria. It was free of charge to drive to the port. The orca can also tow a smaller, 7-foot-long orca behind it.

In recent weeks, the Port of Astoria has tried creative ways to keep the animals away. The port installed beach balls, colorful tape and chicken wire. And even electrified mats. Of those, Knight said the beach balls have been the least expensive solution. The initial results were the best, too.

"There's something about flashing, moving bright colors that (sea lions) don't like," he said. "They jumped off the docks."

He said the beach ball idea could be revived.

The sea lion population has increased dramatically in recent decades. The animals are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. But the law includes provisions allowing for deterrence of the sea lions. Private property can be protected.

The Astoria sea lion population is dwindling at the moment. Many follow the salmon migration north. However by mid-August, they'll be back in force, Knight said.

Critical thinking challenge: Why didn't the Port of Astoria use a real orca?

Assigned 16 times

  • John0724-YYCA
    6/10/2015 - 06:04 p.m.

    Well at least some got scared away and that is a good thing because Sea Lions are very deadly in my opinion because when you get too close to them they could bite you so next when I go to a beach I will always take my beach ball just in case I interact with a Sea Lion. Well at least they know how to get rid of sea lions with a beach ball because I never knew that Sea Lions were afraid of beach balls because when I see movies they play with beach balls.

  • william1108-yyca
    6/10/2015 - 08:48 p.m.

    It is so cool. It I cool to use a fake fish or anything to scare off things. I thought that could never happen. I also thought that sea lions were not real. I also thought it was just fake. But since I read this There is such thins as sea lions. And also that you can scare off things with fake things. And that fish in the picture looks real.

  • annabel1226-yyca
    6/10/2015 - 09:15 p.m.

    It was a great idea. It looks like the sea lions are the birds and the orca whales is the scarecrow. Then you could put mouses into traps when they are trying to get into your house for example make a fake cat and put it into the mouse hole. If I have mice in my home I will do my ideas. If my idea gets publish everyone will follow it then I will be famous for making that idea.

    Critical thinking challenge: Why didn't the Port of Astoria use a real orca?
    Answer: They did not put real orcas because if they put real orcas than they will just roam around they will sometimes escape. Then for example why can't people stand guard the fields than why do they put scarecrow?

  • ShanniaC-Bis
    6/15/2015 - 05:21 p.m.

    I thought the part where the author said " Knight said there were 400 to 500 sea lions the morning of June 4." was crazy because I thought 400 to 500 sea lions is a lot.

    • ThaliaG-Bis
      6/15/2015 - 05:26 p.m.

      I think that is a lot of orcas as well.

  • ThaliaG-Bis
    6/15/2015 - 05:22 p.m.

    I thought the part where the author said "They probably think its dead now that its belly is up" was a helpful because if I wanted to do something including orcas I now no that when there belly is up it probably means it is dead.

  • RosaS-Bis
    6/15/2015 - 05:25 p.m.

    I think the Port of Astoria didn't use a real orca because I don't know how they would tame a live orca to actually patrol the ports!

  • LisaC-Bis
    6/15/2015 - 05:25 p.m.

    I thought the part where the author said "I wish the fake whale will play it's recordings, like the dinner call" was interesting because I haven't seen a fake whale do a call that is the same as the real orca.

  • LuisAvaca
    7/10/2015 - 01:44 a.m.

    > To scare the sea lions off the coast of Oregon built a motorized Orca, which was finally destroyed by a boat, the authorities think of creating a new Orca.

    > In my opinion, I think it's a good idea to help wisely to scare seals and should be copied elsewhere.

    -Critical Challenge thinking: Why did not the Port of Astoria use real killer?
    > I think that the ideas that they use a false Orca to also be more effective to drive away sea lions.

  • Leland-Hor
    7/25/2015 - 07:19 p.m.

    I did not know that they could scare off hundredsofsealions

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