The basic principle behind a scarecrow seems like it should work just as well in water as it does on land—but residents in Astoria, Oregon have discovered it’s not as easy as you might think.
In an effort to shoo away hundreds of sea lions from crowding the local docks, the Port of Astoria borrowed a 32-foot fiberglass orca whale from a whale-watching business in Bellingham, Wash. The motorized, life-sized replica was equipped with recordings of real life killer whale calls and room enough for a human driver to control the action.
Last week, about 1000 people stood by to watch the voyage of the replica whale. Jim Knight, the executive director of the Port of Astoria, told the Associated Press that the sea lions went “deathly silent” when the vessel shoved off.
Then, the scheme went belly-up. When a cargo ship passed by, the wake caused the orca-boat to capsize. The operator was rescued—and the sea lions?
“They probably think it’s dead now,” Knight said.
This was the second hiccup for “Fake Willy,” as it’s come to be known. The outboard motor flooded in its maiden voyage which docked the dummy until a replacement could be installed.
Recently, the Port of Astoria has attempted to combat the sea lion population, which has grown significantly in the last few decades. Beach balls, colorful tape, chicken wire and electrified mats have all been tested out.
The fake orca is now back in Bellingham, where it will be repaired and better equipped for rough waters. It will return in August, when the sea lion population is in full force during salmon-spawning season.