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 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. It was actually 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 and prevent boaters from using the docks. The sea lions also 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, chicken wire and 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 to protect private property.

The Astoria sea lion population is dwindling at the moment. 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?

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COMMENTS (86)
  • Mr_Abbyh
    6/10/2015 - 01:59 p.m.

    they probably didn't use a real orca because if they used a wild one, well we know what'll happen and if we use a tamed one, it might get lost, die, or try to be free again.

  • mhalinski8@ims.com
    6/10/2015 - 03:39 p.m.

    That is so cool, I never thought that sea lions were such a big nuisance for the Port of Astoria. I also think that the orca idea is innovative and genius.

  • Brandon1231-YYCA
    6/10/2015 - 04:41 p.m.

    I think that it is cool to have these people create an orca that is made of things to scare the sea lions away. I think that it is pretty smart because If you don't want people on your lawn, you would do the same thing. So I think that it was pretty smart to have these people do this to protect the people and to make the sea lions go away.
    Critical thinking challegne: Why didn't the port of Astoria use a real one? They didn't use a real one because if they did, then they would have to control it and learn how to tame it.

  • Eugene0808-YYCA
    6/10/2015 - 09:12 p.m.

    This would be a good way to keep away sea lions from the Port of Astoria because sea lions do not want to be eaten by a "killer whale". The fake killer whale would go around the Port of Astoria with a smaller 7-foot killer whale behind it to scare away any sea lions off the docks. That would temporarily stop sea lions from gathering on top of docks and eating too much salmon. However, the operators have to make sure that the sea lions stay off of the docks so the people can use it.
    Critical thinking challenge: Why didn't the Port of Astoria use a real orca?
    Answer: The Port of Astoria did not sue a real orca because it would eat the sea lions and the Astoria sea lion population is dwindling.

  • SladeG-2
    6/10/2015 - 09:28 p.m.

    This article is about a fake orca also known as a killer whale trying to scare off sea lions that were crowding the docks off the Oregon coast. The man made killer whale scared off a few hundred sea lions until a cargo ship ran into it and tipped it over which broke part of it and since the whale was operated by a human inside of it, people had to come rescue the person so he wouldn't drown. The pollution of sea lions has greatly increased so people are going to repair the operational orca and try again once it is fixed. My opinion on this article is that I think it was a smart idea to create such a thing without hurting the sea lions.

  • MGallagher
    6/10/2015 - 09:43 p.m.

    People tried to use a life sized replica of an orca whale to act as a scarecrow for the sea lions along the Oregon coast. The organizers took the scarecrow out and repaired it and cleaned it up for later use. They said that there was a probable chance if second use. The whale's purpose was to stop the migration of sea lions into the docks of Oregon. They have recently found out ways to keep sea lions off the docks. One being a flashing moving beach ball.

  • Ariannar103
    6/10/2015 - 09:45 p.m.

    That was a really neat way to scare off the sea lions. I would have never thought of putting a "scarecrow" to keep the sea lions from coming onto the docks. They did not use a real orca because they would not want a whale near the banks because they will have a new problem which would be instead of having sea lions on the bank they will have a whale on the bank.

  • MichaelaJ-3
    6/10/2015 - 11:21 p.m.

    A fake, life-sized orca is used 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. Earlier, officials had to find a replacement motor for the fake orca. It was actually a boat with a driver inside. The fake orca belongs to a whale watching business. It was brought overland from Bellingham, Washington. I believe that this experiments very smart of the whale watching business.

  • IM2000rex
    6/11/2015 - 08:39 a.m.

    its cool to sea other wales under water. but how would other wales know if that wale is real or fake what do they know

  • ZH2001blue
    6/11/2015 - 08:43 a.m.

    Having a fake killer whale to scare of the sea lions is a get idea, because if they're population keep increasing there would be any more fish for the fisher men.

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