Newport Beach enlists plastic coyotes to scare off sea lions

Finding a reliable and cost-effective way to humanely repel sea lions isn’t easy. Never mind if the solutions are ridiculous looking, which they sometimes are. As long as it works and keeps working, that’s what matters.

Take for example, the ongoing sea lion-deterring efforts of Astoria, Oregon. In 2015, a desperate ploy to scare away an unruly colony of sea lions with a parade float-turned-boat painted like an orca literally went belly up in front of the impervious marine mammals. (They were obviously not amused by the high jinks.) A year later, officials enlisted a quartet of wacky waving inflatable arm-flailing tube men to frighten the pinnipeds away. Although only a temporary fix, it seemed to do the trick.

Dennis Durgan, the harbormaster of Newport Beach, California, opted not to go the Astoria route and instead look locally for inspiration. As city spokeswoman Mary Locey tells the Orange County Register, Durgan’s idea came straight from the Newport Harbor Yacht Club.

The brilliant, absurd and apparently effective solution?

Forty dollar plastic coyotes.

While unclear how often coyotes and sea lions actually encounter each other in the wild (uh, never?), the fearsome-looking decoys — available at a Walmart near you — proved successful at warding off sea lions at the yacht club. And so far, they’ve done a decent job on the public docks in Newport Beach’s scenic, semi-artificial harbor, too.



Wile E. Coyote has been put to work around Newport Harbor to deter sea lions from hauling out on boats and docks to prevent property damage and late night noisy parties.

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“We’re getting less complaints with the coyotes but we’re still getting plenty to make it a number one priority,” Newport Harbor dockmaster Ryan Sandford tells the Register. “This is probably the most affordable way to take care of this issue.

A meeting not common in nature

Newport Beach has long struggled with managing marauding sea lions that no doubt descend on the protected harbor because of its enviable real estate: spacious, well-maintained docks and hundreds of large yachts and expensive pleasure craft, all with glistening white bows perfect for basking under the bright Southern California sun. It’s all rather deluxe.

But when sea lions manage to waddle up swim stairs and make their way onto the boats, they can cause significant damage. If enough of the blubbery interlopers decide to congregate aboard a single boat, they can sink it. And while fun to look at and photograph, these highly intelligent beasts can be rowdy, surly and aggressive toward humans. They love being the life of the party, but when you ask them to leave, they trash the place and then chase you away.

Sea lions lounging on a yacht in Newport Beach, CADon’t mind if we do: Sea lions lounge in sunny Newport Beach, California (Photo: Tracie Hall/flickr)

And so, the city is banking on a band of eight ersatz coyotes to help prevent further property damage. Normally, coyote decoys are used to spook Canadian geese (the clever and highly adaptable wild canines are a natural predator) as well as small animals like rabbits and skunks. The natural habitat of faux coyote tends to be golf courses, not upscale marinas. This particularly versatile model, with its comically giant yellow eyes and exposed fangs, is crouched in a ready-to-pounce stance. For added realism, it swivels and “wags furry tail with breeze.”

In order to better track the city’s newest unpaid employees, each coyote has been given a name. There’s Wile E., of course. As for the rest of them, the city decided to stick with the Loony Toons theme: Bugs, Taz, Elmer, Sylvester, Babs, Marvin and Yosemite round out the pack.

The Los Angeles Times notes that these unusual maritime scarecrows have been installed at “known sea lion magnets” around the harbor. One would hope that boat owners near these hotspots have been alerted to the presence of the somewhat startling decoys. Southern Californians may be used to interacting with normally shy coyotes, most are decidedly not used to encountering a creature that looks like the cartoon version of a rapid dog on a marina dock.

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Teeth-baring plastic coyotes are Newport Beach’s latest sea lion scare tactic 

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While Newport Beach officials are glad to lend assistance and protect property while maintaining public safety, individual boat owners are also required by the city to employ their own humane anti-sea lion techniques. It’s written right into the city’s municipal code. Popular approved methods include blocking swim stairs, installing snow fencing and setting out motion-activated sprinklers, which startle the resting animals and usually prompt them to hop back in the water.

It’s unclear how long the eight coyotes will be on the job even though the early results are positive. After a while, they’ll no doubt become less fearsome, more familiar. Their deterrent power will fade. “You have to constantly be creative with coming up with ideas,” Locey tells the Register. “The chances of them probably becoming used to these and realizing that they’re fake and not real is probably pretty high.”

If this does ever happen, it might be worth Newport Beach’s time looking into other decoys of predators that sea lions would never interact with in the wild. (After all, the Astoria killer whale ruse was a dud.) Perhaps a stern-looking owl might also prove successful.

Baby sea lion pups are dying because overfishing has left our oceans without enough fish.

Add Your Name Now: Sea Lion Pups Are Starving

Goal: 30,000 Progress: 8,198
Sponsored by: Oceana

A surge of baby sea lions, starving and dehydrated, have washed ashore along the California coast each spring in recent years.

If we don’t take meaningful action now, this crisis will continue. More and more pups will arrive each day.Emaciated and weak, most of them will die.

Overfishing sardines during a natural population decline has severely reduced the number of these forage fish that sea lions rely on. Unless people like you fight back, vulnerable sea lion pups will continue to starve and die.

Add your name to save starving sea lion pups and protect the world’s oceans with Oceana.

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Dear Pacific Fishery Management Council:

California sea lion pups have been found stranded on beaches during spring months in recent years. Many died and many others were found underweight, dehydrated, and starving. Their mothers were not finding enough forage fish to eat. They were spending more time away from their pups foraging, farther from shore, and the nursing sea lion pups were in turn, starving to death.

Approximately three times as many sea lions washed ashore in 2015 compared to 2013, when the severity of strandings emerged as an issue of great concern. About 90 percent of sea lion pups were estimated to have died last year before reaching weaning age.

More must be done to ensure there is adequate forage fish to support a healthy and abundant food web in the Pacific Ocean.

I am greatly concerned that management of the commercial forage fish fisheries off California, Oregon and Washington is leaving ocean wildlife without enough fish to eat. Sea lions, whales, pelicans, and many other species rely on these same forage fish for a large part of their diet. Pacific sardine and Northern anchovy populations are at historically low levels and are some of the most important forage fish in the California Current ocean ecosystem. Immediate, lasting action is needed to prevent future overfishing and to help these forage fish populations rebuild to healthy and abundant levels.

I urge you to take immediate measures to fix the Pacific sardine management framework, prevent Northern anchovy overfishing, and ensure abundant forage fish populations for dependent predators. Ocean wildlife and coastal communities don’t have time to wait.


Group ups reward for information on June sea lion killings

Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson

Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson

— A Cordova group has raised the government reward offered for information on those responsible for killing at least half a dozen Steller sea lions near the fishing community last month.

KTUU-TV reports ( ) that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Thursday the reward is now $7,500 after Cordova District Fisherman United added $5,000 to NOAA’s original $2,500 reward for help solving the case of the sea lions.

The sea lions were found on a Cordova-area beach June 1. NOAA officials say biologists examined the dead animals and determined they were intentionally killed.

The western United States population of Steller sea lions is protected under the Endangered Species Act, with harassing, harming or killing them banned except in extremely limited situations.

NOAA investigates Steller sea lion deaths near Cordova

(L-R) Kate Savage (NOAA), Noah Meisenheimer (NOAA), Lt. Matthew Keiper (US Coast Guard), and Sadie Wright (NOAA) collect samples from a dead Steller sea lion near Cordova, Alaska. (Photo courtesy NOAA)

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is investigating the deaths of several Steller sea lions southwest of Cordova.

Julie Speegle, spokesperson for NOAA Fisheries, Alaska region, says 15 dead sea lions were discovered in the area on June 1.

“Three to five of them had wounds that our biologists could definitely say were human-caused wounds,” Speegle said. “So that indicates that these Steller sea lions had been deliberately killed.”

Killing sea lions violates the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which only allows limited exceptions for subsistence hunting by Alaska Natives

These particular animals were from the western stock of Steller sea lions, which are also listed under the Endangered Species Act.

NOAA law enforcement is looking for information from anyone with details about the event…and are offering an award up to $2,500 dollars for information leading to a conviction.

Who is Making More Waves?

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2015. All Rights Reserved

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2015. All Rights Reserved


Blind anti-sea lion hatred or anti-cormorant animosity, like anti-wolf bigotry, seems born into in-bred, backwards communities, but it is a product of “nurture,” not nature and will (as with racism and sexism) surely fade away over time.


The question is, how many of these animals will be left after all the arrogant, narcissistic, speciesist, selfish blood lust is finally appeased?


And when it comes down to it, who is really making more waves—the sea lions for eating fish as they have for tens of millions of years (not hundreds, not thousands, but tens of MILLIONS) or the humans who are in the process, generally, of destroying the planet by changing the climate, polluting everything from the seas to the air we breathe, overfishing, overhunting, overpopulating and single-handedly bringing to an end the Age of Mammals?


Hats off to all the good folks with the Sea Lion Defense Brigade who stand up for sea life, despite local animosity, on a daily basis.


Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson

Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson


Tribes, Fisherman Rally For Sea Lion Removal

Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2015. All Rights Reserved

Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2015. All Rights Reserved

Tribes, Fisherman Rally For Sea Lion Removal

Around 200 fisherman and tribal members rallied near Willamette Falls Saturday. They showed support for a bill that would allow tribes with fishing rights to kill some sea lions on the Columbia river.

Sara Thompson, with the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, says sea lions have eaten about twice as many fish as usual at the dams this year.

“We’ve seen probably, just in the quarter mile below Bonneville dam, over 8,000 Salmon and Steelhead consumed by sea lions,” she said.

The bill, HR 564, is  sponsored by Oregon Democrat Kurt Schrader and Washington Republican Jaime Herrera-Beutler.

State wildlife managers in Oregon, Washington and Idaho already have the authority to trap and kill sea lions, and have euthanized at least 30 this year.

The bill would also allow states and tribes to target sea lions that prey on a broader range of fish, not just those that snack on threatened salmon.

Federal biologists say the high number of sea lions spotted this year on the Columbia are the result of strong smelt and salmon runs. They say unusually warm ocean temperatures have made it difficult for the marine mammals to find prey off the California coast and have driven them north.

Reward Offered in Astoria, Oregon Sea Lion and Harbor Seal Shootings

Photo @ Jim Robertson

Photo @ Jim Robertson

May 28, 2015

The Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is investigating the deaths of approximately ten California sea lions and one harbor seal found floating in the waters near Astoria, Oregon, over the past two months. The Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust are offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the identification, arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible.

According to NOAA, multiple expended shell casings of various calibers were found during the months of April and May on the causeway at the East End Mooring Basin and at the water’s edge at the foot of 9th Street in Astoria. The deceased sea lions and harbor seal were found floating in the vicinity. The locations of the shell casings are known haul-out areas for marine mammals. The cause of death for the animals was determined to be gunshot wounds.

A recent rash of sea lion killings is coinciding with a die-off of sea lions in Southern California that has seen stranding response centers in California scrambling to rescue over 2,000 starving young animals.

Scott Beckstead, Oregon state director for The HSUS, said: “It is ironic that, on one hand we see humans reaching out to help suffering animals at the same time that others are breaking the law and killing them. Shooting sea lions and harbor seals is a violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act and is punishable by criminal penalties up to $100,000 and one year of imprisonment. Civil penalties up to $11,000 per violation may also be assessed. The HSUS is grateful for NOAA’s work to investigate this crime and hope someone comes forward with information.”

Anyone with information concerning the shootings is asked to call NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement in Astoria, Oregon, at 503-325-5934 or the NOAA Enforcement Hotline at 1-800-853-1964. Callers may remain anonymous.

Media Contact: Naseem Amini: 301-548-7793;

REWARD! Feds seek clues in sea lion shootings

By Edward StrattonThe Daily Astorian

May 29, 2015 9:54AM

Photo courtesy of Veronica Montoya
Sea Lion Defense Brigade volunteer Veronica Montoya reported finding 11 shell casings from a .44-caliber weapon May 18 at the Port of Astoria’s East End Mooring Basin, along with a sea lion with a serious eye wound.


Photo courtesy of Veronica Montoya
Sea Lion Defense Brigade volunteer Veronica Montoya reported finding 11 shell casings from a .44-caliber weapon May 18 at the Port of Astoria’s East End Mooring Basin, along with a sea lion with a serious eye wound.

Photo courtesy of Veronica Montoya
The Sea Lion Defense Brigade reported finding 11 shell casings from a .44-caliber weapon May 18 at the Port of Astoria’s East End Mooring Basin. The group reported finding 19 shell casings in early April, as well.



NOAA has confirmed the shooting of sea lions and a seal in and around Astoria, and the Humane Society is offering a $5,000 reward for information.

At least 10 California sea lions and one harbor seal have died from gunshot wounds and trauma in and around Astoria over the past two months, federal investigators have confirmed.

“It’s all been along the waterfront in Astoria,” National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Law Enforcement Special Agent Karl Hellberg said, adding the death tally is a conservative estimate.

Hellberg reached out in the last few days to The Humane Society of the United States to offer a reward for information about the shootings. Thursday, The Humane Society offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to the identification, arrest and conviction of anyone responsible for the shootings.

Shell casings

On April 6, members of the Sea Lion Defense Brigade reported finding 19 bullet casings on the Port of Astoria’s East End Mooring Basin causeway. On May 18, they reported finding 11 more shell casings at the basin. Hellberg said more were found near Buoy Beer Co. on Ninth Street.

He said the local wildlife stranding networks have been doing necropsies on the animals.

“We’ve been watching this and trying to investigate this as we can,” he said, adding it is a difficult case because of the number of reports and the longstanding conflict between recreational and commercial fishermen and sea lions.

“I’m trying to develop additional leads right now,” Hellberg said. “I’ve exhausted many leads already.”

Since 1972, sea lions and harbor seals have been covered by the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act. Shooting them is punishable by criminal penalties up to $100,000 and one year in prison. Civil penalties of up to $11,000 can also be assessed for each violation of the act.

The Humane Society and Hellberg are directing anyone with information concerning the shootings to call NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement in Astoria at 503-325-5934 or the NOAA Enforcement Hotline at 800-853-1964. Callers may remain anonymous.

Why sea lions are here

The NOAA Northwest Fisheries Science Center recently reported on the increase of sea lions in the Columbia River and starvation in California.

Male sea lions, NOAA said, seek out high-energy, oily fish such as herring and sardines. In recent years, they’ve come in increasing numbers to the mouth of the Columbia River to feed on strong runs of smelt, taking up residence on docks and jetties near Astoria.

Their numbers locally can range from a few hundred to more than 2,000, depending on the fish runs. As the smelt run dissipates and male sea lions migrate to rookeries in Southern California, there are fewer in the river.

A die-off of sardines, a traditional food source of sea lions in California, coincides with large recent die-offs and strandings of sea lions along the California coastline, NOAA reported.

Sans Sea Lions, the Port of Astoria Would Miss the Boat

Situated near the mouth of the Columbia River at the top of the Oregon Coast, Astoria, can be a nice small town to visit, if you like sea lions. If not, it can be a cold, heartless and otherwise pretty boring place. DSC_0043

The entertaining pinnipeds lounging, cavorting and guarding their tiny spot on a couple of the docks in the town’s East Moring Basin are a must see for anyone who enjoys connecting with the wildlife close-up.

DSC_0055 DSC_0073

Unfortunately, a few of the locals are more fulfilled by hating and shooting the friendly, comical sea lions despite the steady draw they bring to this depressed and rather depressing town which makes a temporary living through extraction of dwindling natural resources, such as fish and trees (many of which are shipped to China on giant, diesel carbon-spewing container ships). Not unlike so many other instances in society, it’s really only a few local people, claiming all for humans, who want the sea lions evicted, but they don’t mind ruining it for everyone else.                                                          

Also see:

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, All Rights Reserved

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, All Rights Reserved

A similar situation is going on in nearby Gearhart, just north of Seaside, Oregon. A herd of Roosevelt elk recently moved into the quietish town (after being crowded out of their former home by development, including a Home Depot, Petco, Staples, Dollar Store, a couple of auto dealerships, and a relocated, expanded super-Costco, with more to come soon—all, ironically—on “Dolphin” Lane). For now they enjoy the dunes along the beach, but that could all change if the few who resent wildlife in their proximity have their way…