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. 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, 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. 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 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, especially 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, including installing beach balls, colorful tape, chicken wire and electrified mats. Of those, Knight said the beach balls have been the least expensive solution. And 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 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 0 times


COMMENTS (26)
  • garretta-fel
    8/24/2015 - 02:14 p.m.

    CTC: The port of Astoria didn't use a real orca because a real orca would have eaten the sea lions instead of just scaring them off,as well as roaming wherever and not staying where the officials wanted the fake one located.

  • mattv-fel
    8/24/2015 - 02:14 p.m.

    The Port of Astoria doesn't want to actually kill the Sea Lions, just drive them away from the Port. Since the Sea Lions were only a nuisance and not hurting people. The Sea Lion population is dwindling anyway, so they dare not harm them.

  • elizabetht-fel
    8/24/2015 - 02:14 p.m.

    Port of Astoria didn't use real orca because they would not just scare the sea lions away, they would kill a few in the process. Since the ecosystem was already adjusted without orca, the balance would be thrown off with orca. These are just a couple reasons why they wouldn't use real orca.

  • coled-fel
    8/24/2015 - 02:15 p.m.

    CTC: Because if they used a real orca instead of a fake one, the real orca would've killed all the sea lions most likely, which is not what Knight and other people want.

  • lances-fel
    8/24/2015 - 02:15 p.m.

    The port of Austria used a fake orca so they could control where it went and what sounds it made to scare the sea lions.

  • kolbyd-fel
    8/24/2015 - 02:16 p.m.

    They didn't use a real orca because that is unrealistic. They couldn't get a real whale to do what they say. That is if they could even get one there.

  • ethanb-1-fel
    8/24/2015 - 02:16 p.m.

    Port of Astoria used a fake orca than a real one because sea lions are prey to the orcas thats why they get scared ,if they used a real one it would of eat them.

  • johnj-fel
    8/24/2015 - 02:16 p.m.

    The port of Astoria didn't use a real orca because if they were to have used a real one it would have ate the sea lions instead of simply driving them away.

  • calaabj-fel
    8/24/2015 - 02:16 p.m.

    The port of Astoria didn't use a real real Orca because the animals are under the care of marine mammal protection act and they didn't want to kill the sea lions anyway.

  • kyleighp-fel
    8/24/2015 - 02:16 p.m.

    If the Port of Astoria used a real orca, it would be inhumane. It could also do damage to the docks as well and even swim off. It could hurt itself in the process. This a dock,meaning boats come in and out all day. The Orca could be seriously injured if a boat were to clip its body, which means people could get in SERIOUS trouble.

Take the Quiz Leave a comment
ADVERTISEMENT