Hazing is never pleasant. In fact, the frat boy wannabes who willingly subject themselves to all manner of pain and degradation just to join an exclusive club sometimes end up injured or worse. But in this particular situation, the targets aren’t initiates — the hazers are hoping to harass and intimidate them right out of town. In fact, the targets aren’t even human.
These targets are California sea lions that gather at the base of Willamette Falls in Oregon, and if these tactics don’t scare them away, nothing will. Oregon Live reports that shotgun-toting biologists are targeting the creatures with “cracker shells” and “seal bombs”, hoping to make this particular location undesirable.
It’s a prime feeding zone for sea lions — a federally managed species — but it’s also the site of a crucial fish ladder that helps endangered salmon and steelhead navigate up the river to spawn.
Crews from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife have spent the past month firing specially made weapons that explode loudly —annoying but not hurting the sea lions, and keeping the fish out of harm’s way.
It may sound inhumane, but according to biologist Todd Alsbury, it’s the best choice they have.
"We really hope this program will work," he told Oregon Live. "If it doesn't, we may have to consider trapping or killing the sea lions, which is allowed by federal law in some cases."
So far, it seems to be effective — at least temporarily. These voracious animals, which can reach up to 1,000 pounds each, seem to be leaving the 24-hour buffet of endangered fish whenever they catch sight of the crews.
Further up the coast, Washington state officials are employing similarly startling methods. State officials and the Army Corps of Engineers have enlisted the help of local tribes to scare sea lions away from another endangered fish breeding area on the Columbia River. Here, participants admit that the intelligent animals can be “stubborn”.
“They get used to the cracker shells,” Bobby Begay of the Yakama tribe told The Seattle Times.
“Sometimes they'll swim right under your boat. We joke around, they're like California people. Once they move up here, you can't keep them out."