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
Lexile

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 after it was swamped by a passing ship.

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

Once the 32-foot killer whale replica is dried out and repaired, "There's a chance we'll do it again," Knight said.

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

Sea lions have become a nuisance to Astoria and commercial fishermen because they damage docks, prevent boaters from using the docks and eat lots of salmon.

Knight took the day's adventure in stride, calling 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, applauding 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 and perhaps 200 by that night, when the fake orca was tied up to the docks where they 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, especially the "call to dinner" 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, free of charge to the port. It 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, including installing beach balls, colorful tape, chicken wire and electrified mats. Of those, Knight said the beach balls have been the least expensive solution with initially the best results.

"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 to protect private property.

The Astoria sea lion population is dwindling at the moment as many of them 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 15 times


COMMENTS (6)
  • jm1999gizmo
    6/11/2015 - 08:38 a.m.

    Astoria didn't use a real orca because a orca is a very dangerous animal that could kill a human easily since its so big and a meat eater. also the orca could just swim away and there would be no way to stop it unless u kill it.

  • AB2000soccer
    6/11/2015 - 08:46 a.m.

    The Port of Astoria didn't use a real orca whale because they thought it would stop people from using the docks for their boats and they would stop fishing for salmon.

  • rm00pennie
    6/11/2015 - 01:05 p.m.

    they didn't use a real orca because they wouldn't want it to actually kill off the sea lions. considering that it is at port where they were I don't think they wanted to have bloody water where people payed to park there boats.

  • TF000Music
    6/11/2015 - 01:10 p.m.

    If they used real orca the ducts would be bloody and that wouldn't be good for the people who dock their boats in the ports near where the sea lions are.

  • kaylie.latham53
    6/11/2015 - 01:11 p.m.

    I would love to go out there and help them with that, I love the ocean. I also love crafts, so helping make that killer whale would have been really fun. I researched it and found that the sea lions were such a big problem a man was recovering after a sea lion dragged him into the water trying to get his fish that he caught.

  • kbeatty-cel
    8/21/2015 - 10:15 a.m.

    The whale scarecrow was a good idea, however it wasn't quite ready for usage. The whale flipped over after a wave hit it and became ineffective to get rid of the sea lions. Sea lions are obviously turning into a pest and there's got to be a way to get them to go somewhere else.

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