WESTPORT, Wash. — Sea Lions can appear to be perfectly docile, but if you get between one and his dinner, get ready to run. Aggressive California Sea Lions are no joke, and as one Washington beach town is finding out, the giant animals can be a real menace.
“They will get aggressive, “ Marc Myrsell from the Westport Aquarium said. Sea Lions have jumped on the dock and have gone after people cleaning their fish.
That news rattles Rascal and his owner Carolyn Calhoun. She said at least two dogs were attacked and eaten by the Sea Lions in the past two years.
“Dogs are good meals, I guess,” Calhoun said, laughing. “Keep your dog on your arm if you’re going to go out on the docks.”
The animals have been swimming the waters of Westport for as long as people can remember, but their numbers are growing. It’s illegal to feed the animals, but thanks to local fishermen there are a lot of fish guts to snack on in the marina’s waters. And what that means, is that the Sea Lions have plenty of reason to stick around.
“There is a tremendous amount of animosity between the fishermen and what’s going on with the Sea Lions,” Myrsell said. “The carcasses need to be collected or there needs to be a place where fishermen can bring the carcasses and then somebody else takes them away.”
When people feed the Sea Lions, it creates an association between people and food with the animals. Myrsell said that’s the root of the current problem.
“I’ve seen them tracking dogs on the dock, I’ve seen them track humans on the dock carrying their fish,” he said.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration gave Myrsell a $10,000 grant to spread the word about the dangers of feeding Sea Lions. But some fishermen are taking the law into their own hands.
“The next thing you know Sea Lions end up getting shot,” he said.
There were 20 to 30 sea lions in the marina on Thursday, but earlier this year there were more than 100 according to Myrsell.
The feds say it’s OK to shoo the animals away, but it’s against the law to harm them. Shooting one could cost you a $20,000 fine.
Myrsell hopes locals — and the Sea Lions — get the message and things can return to normal.