August 5, 2008

Sea Lion Won’t Budge From Family’s Boat

By Cat Sieh, The Bellingham Herald, Wash.

Aug. 4--An uninvited visitor wasn't eager to disembark from a Ferndale-area family's boat Sunday, Aug. 3.

Lynnea Flarry was picnicking with her family on Clark Island Sunday afternoon when her daughter-in-law saw an intruder on the family's sailboat, which was anchored to a buoy offshore.

The large sea lion had climbed aboard the family's 31-foot Catalina sailboat using a ladder that extended into the water from the boat's stern, Flarry said.

Though Flarry's family thought the animal was a seal, it was actually most likely a California Sea Lion, according to Sarah Rages, seasonal rehabilitator at Wolf Hollow Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Friday Harbor. Wolf Hollow staff, which saw photos of the animal, said it was likely a 2- or 3-year-old female.

Flarry said her son and grandchildren took a dingy back to the boat to check out the animal.

"When they got close (she) hid (her) head behind the lifesaver like a little kid who hides behind a curtain and doesn't realize his toes are sticking out," Flarry said.

After snapping a few photos, the family did its best to encourage the sea lion to disembark, but to no avail.

"It was the strangest thing," Flarry said. "He was on there for more than an hour."

Eventually Flarry's son used a boat hook to gently nudge the animal toward the water, and the animal dove in after about 20 minutes.

Flarry's granddaughter stayed on the boat while the rest of the group went back to shore in the dingy. The girl took photos as the sea lion was swimming in circles around the boat. Soon enough, the animal had climbed back up the ladder onto the boat, where he proceeded to sun himself again.

"She was so busy snapping pictures she forgot to bring the ladder up," Flarry said.

The entire party came back to the boat and again tried to get the animal to move along.

"He'd just turn his nose up to the sun and just look at us like, 'I'm here, so what?' It was just the darndest thing. I've never seen anything so preposterous, and I've been sailing for years and years."

It is legal for a person to remove a wild marine mammal from their property as long as the person doesn't injure the animal, said Brian Gorman, spokesman for the northwest office of NOAA Fisheries Service.

"This is a problem up and down the coast, particularly on docks," Gorman said. "If they're on your property and preventing you from making use of it, you certainly can move them."

Gorman cautioned people in such a situation to be careful around sea lions, which can be aggressive.

Despite desperate pleas by Flarry's 5-year-old grandson to take the sea lion they encountered home, the family went on their way without the stowaway.

"My grandson was more than willing to give up his bathtub if we could take the (sea lion) home," Flarry said.

Reach Cat Sieh at [email protected] or call 715-2236.

Reach CAT SIEH at [email protected] or call ext. 236.


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