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An Oregon Town Tried (and Failed) to Scare Off Sea Lions With a Fake Orca

“Fake Willy” nearly drowned on its mission to drive sea lions out of Astoria, Oregon

(Henglein and Steets/cultura/Corbis)
smithsonian.com

Call it “Fake Willy,” or perhaps “Fauxby Dick.” Either one could describe the fiberglass orca designed to scare sea lions off of docks in Astoria, Oregon deployed this week. What could possibly go wrong?

Plenty, writes UPI’s Amy R. Connolly. It all started with a few stubborn sea lions. For months, hundreds of them have congregated on Astoria docks, “taking over the area,” causing damage and elbowing in on local fishermen’s livelihoods. The sea lion sit-in has officials scratching their heads — Connolly writes that they’ve tried everything from paint guns to colorful beach balls to send them packing. However, budget restrictions and environmental protections have limited the city’s ability to shoo them away.

On Thursday, the city called in the big guns: a replica killer whale named Island normally used to promote whale-watching cruises. The orca, which usually resides on a parade float, was converted into a boat and driven to Astoria from nearby Washington to do battle with the invaders. Connolly reports that as local residents brought out the lounge chairs, the boat was launched with a plan to play killer whale sounds and terrify the sea lions into leaving.

That’s not exactly the way it went down. The Daily Astorian’s Joshua Bessex documented “Fake Willy”’s epic journey on Twitter to hilarious effect as a comedy of errors unfolded in real time:

There’s no word on what Astoria’s next tactic will be in its battle against the dock-dwelling sea lions, but it’s likely the faux orca has seen its last day at sea. 

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