- For years, the sea lions lounging at the Bonneville Dam have had easy pickings from salmon waiting to go up fish ladders to upriver spawning grounds.
Over the weekend, the federally protected sea creatures were themselves easy prey for a gunman who shot and killed six of the sea lions as they lay in traps meant to humanely catch them.
State and federal authorities were investigating the shootings, which came less than two weeks after an appeals court issued a temporary injunction against authorities killing the salmon-gobbling mammals. Agents have been trapping them instead, but trapping will be suspended during the investigation, said Rick Hargrave, a spokesman for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Fishermen and American Indian tribes have pushed to protect the salmon and remove the sea lions, by lethal force if necessary.
The carcasses of the four California sea lions and two Steller sea lions were found Sunday around noon below the Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River on the border of Oregon and Washington.
The six animals appear to have been shot by somebody on the Washington side during the night, said Brian Gorman, a spokesman for the National Marine Fisheries Service.
Two open cages each contained the carcasses of two California sea lions and one Steller sea lion, he said.