Questions on dead sea lion found on Ediz Hook to stay unanswered for now
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Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
A dead sea lion lies at the high tide line on the strait side of Ediz Hook in Port Angeles last week.

By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — The cause of death of an eastern Steller sea lion found washed up with three holes in its body last week will remain a mystery for the time being.

An examination of the sea lion carcass showed that the three round holes visible on the body are not consistent with gunshot wounds seen on other dead pinnipeds, nor are they typical scavenging patterns, Kristin Wilkinson, marine mammal stranding coordinator for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries in Seattle, said Monday.

Because of the size of the sea lion and moderate decomposition, there are no plans for a continued investigation into the death of the animal, Wilkinson said.

“The public can request an investigation if they feel it is necessary,” she said.

Feiro Marine Life Center Executive Director Deborah Moriarty said Friday she had collected data and photos of the dead sea lion, which was found on the Strait of Juan de Fuca side of Ediz Hook, near the public restrooms.

Because of budget cuts and the distance to Port Angeles, the NOAA Fisheries office in Seattle works with the marine life center to investigate reports of dead marine mammals in the area.

Volunteers from Feiro took photos and sent those and their observations to Wilkinson.

The photos indicate the sea lion is a male eastern Steller sea lion, the larger of two sea lion species common to the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Wilkinson said.

The other species is the California sea lion.

All sea lions and seals are federally protected.

Killing them can lead to a fine or jail time.

Eastern Steller sea lions were listed as “threatened” under the federal Endangered Species Act until December 2013, when they were taken off the list due to a strong recovery, Wilkinson said.

While under the protection of the Endangered Species Act, the number of eastern Steller sea lions increased from 18,040 animals in 1979 to 70,174 in 2010.

Eastern Steller sea lions will continue to be protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and their population monitored by NOAA.

Male Steller sea lions can weigh up to 2,500 pounds and measure 11 feet long, more than twice the size of male California sea lions, which weigh 1,000 pounds or more.

Females can weigh up to 770 pounds and can be as long as 9.5 feet, three times larger than their svelte 200-pound California cousins.

Steller sea lions are known for their deep “roar,” compared to the California sea lion “bark.”

They can live 20 to 30 years in the wild, and eat a variety of fish, including capelin, cod, herring, mackerel, pollock, rockfish, salmon and sand lance, as well as shellfish, squid, octopus and gastropods.

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Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at arwyn.rice@peninsula
dailynews.com.

Last modified: March 10. 2014 11:59PM
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