Featured Image Credit: City of Newport Beach
By: Kira Krall
Newport Beach, California is plagued by the boom in California sea lion populations. Seals and sea lions regularly haul out of the water onto solid ground to rest or warm themselves in the sun. While a rocky shoreline supports hundreds of sea lions at a time during breeding season, a boat dock can’t handle the marine mammals that can weigh up to 860 pounds.
These marina-dwelling sea lions have damaged water lines, electrical equipment, and the docks and boats themselves. Larger sea lions have been seen charging humans at these locations rather than fleeing into the water, which becomes a safety concern to boaters and tourists attempting to get close to the dangerous pinnipeds. The sound and smell of eau de Sea Lion is also deterring business.
Managing marine mammals requires delicate solutions. Special permits need to be acquired to interact with any marine mammal found in United States waters according to the Marine Mammal Protection Act, so city governments have had to get creative. They’ve required boatowners to use some form of seal repellent, whether that be blocking potential haul-outs with physical objects or rigging a motion-activated sprinkler system. Even with the scare tactics, seals are known for returning to the same spot 15 minutes after being spooked.
The Newport Harbor Yacht club decided to experiment with a dummy version of a natural predator of the California sea lion: the coyote. The plastic predators are poised to strike with bared teeth, wide eyes, and a fur tail that moves in the wind.
They experienced relative success at keeping the pinnipeds off of docks and boats, so much so that the City Harbormaster is giving it a shot. This coyote method is relatively permanent and relatively inexpensive at $25 per dummy.