ODFW trapping sea lions near Willamette Falls, moving them to coast

Earlier this month they set up two traps near Willamette Falls to capture the sea lions so they can then truck them out to the coast.

OREGON CITY, Ore. -- Trapping one species to save another.

Oregon wildlife managers are working to stop California sea lions from eating the dwindling winter steelhead population in the Willamette River.

Earlier this month they set up two traps near Willamette Falls to capture the sea lions so they can then truck them out to the coast.

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Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists said last year the animals ate as much as a quarter of the threatened winter steelhead run.

"If that level of predation were to continue, there would be close to a 90 percent chance that the winter steelhead run, or at least some populations within that run, could go extinct," said Bryan Wright, the project leader for the marine mammal program.

The trapped sea lions are being released in the Lost Creek Recreation Area south of Newport, but they are not staying there long.

Two of the three sea lions taken there returned to the falls in a matter of days.

It is for that reason, some say moving the sea lions is not the answer.

"I think it's a waste of time," said fisherman Adam Dees. "I think they'll just come right back."

The state is seeking permission to kill the repeat offenders like it currently does at Bonneville Dam on the Columbia. A move the Humane Society of the United States is fighting. It maintains, sea lions are not the problem.

"The other issues that are causing the problems for the run, in terms of blocked passages, in terms of some of the water withdrawals and so forth are not being addressed," said Sharon Young with the Humane Society of the U.S.

Young says trapping or eventually killing the animals is not the answer.

If ODFW does get permission, the killing of California sea lions at Willamette Falls could begin as early as next year.