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Herschel Gone But Other Sea Lions Still Feasting on Fish

January 29, 1986

SEATTLE (AP) _ Herschel hasn’t been seen for a while, but other sea lions have been feasting on steelhead trout in the Seattle ship locks this week, prompting new efforts by state game agents to drive them away.

″It’s been pretty busy,″ said Michael Alberton, a biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. ″There’s been animals in and out of here″ since Monday.

Agents resumed an overnight watch Sunday after several sea lions were seen over the weekend. It appears few come at night, however, and the graveyard shift probably will be dropped again, department wildlife biologist Pat Gearin said Wednesday.

Since early January, when the 600-pound Herschel attracted attention, the Game Department has attempted to keep sea lions from eating too many fish at the Hiram-Chittenden Locks where the trout pause while heading to Lake Washington to spawn in the Cedar River system.

Agents scared off most of the sea lions, including Herschel, Jan. 7 when they lobbed firecrackers into the water and broadcast noise underwater to scare off the sea lions. They have continued to do so periodically.

The strategy seemed to be working. Since the program began, periods of two or three days have passed without a sea lion in sight, while several may be reported on other days, Gearin said.

Herschel has not been sighted recently, and the latest visitors have no distinguishing marks, so it’s unclear whether the same ones keep returning or a larger number have discovered the locks.

One sea lion was seen at 3:45 a.m. Wednesday, but was not harassed because the agent wanted to observe its behavior. The animal ate one fish and left on its own about an hour later, Gearin said.

Some sea lions may be moving from Everett, about 25 miles north of the locks, to the mouth of the Duwamish River, a few miles to the south, and following fish near the locks as they pass by, Gearin said.

The sea lions are quickly routed by firecrackers and a sound machine that emits a high-pitched pulse, hurting their ears.

″It scares them pretty good,″ Albertson said, ″but if it’s the same animals coming back in, it obviously doesn’t scare them very long.″

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