Phony Whale vs. Sea Lions
When the docks of your port city are overrun by hundreds of sea lions, what can you do to clear the beasts out? You could round up a bunch of sea tigers and sea bears, oh sea my, or you could bring in a 32-foot fake whale to chase them away. Starting next month, Astoria will be employing the latter option.
Orca by Buzzard
The fiberglass behemoth is the work of 73-year-old Terry Buzzard of Bellingham, Warshington. Buzzard built the faux orca (or “fauxrca”) a dozen years ago as a parade float display to promote his business, Island Mariner Whale Watching Cruises.
Buzzard learned of Astoria’s plight when a friend shared photos of the sea lions running rampant on the docks. As he’s been running his whale watching business for nearly 40 years, the idea came to Buzzard almost immediately.
“That being my business, I know the natural predator of sea lies is the orca,” he told The Oregonian. “So I just put two and two together. […] I called up Astoria [Port Commission Executive Director] Jim Knight and told him my crazy idea. He said, ‘Bring it down’.”
According to Buzzard, the mock whale floats, has an entry hatch, and is registered as a boat. He plans to install an outboard motor to his creation so it can be driven in the water around Astoria’s docks to better deter the sea lions. Whether or not the scheme works, Buzzard is happy to help, free of charge. “We’re just doing it for the fun of it,” he said.
Sea Lion Population Explosion
At last count, there were roughly 2,300 sea lions making themselves at home around the Port of Astoria. That number is up by 1,000 from just a year ago, and is almost ten times the 2010 population. The sheer number of animals has put a strain on the docks themselves, with the animals’ combined weight taking a toll on the structures.
Sea lions can be dangerous animals, and their presence is preventing many boaters from using the docks. Additionally, twenty-three hundred sea lions eat a lot of salmon, and as such, have been doing a number on the local commercial fishing industry.
The sea lion infestation is not completely without positives, however. Spectators have been flocking to the docks in droves to see the mighty aquatic beasts.