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Sunbathers not welcome

MAY 16 Authorities in Newport Beach, Calif., are testing a motion-activated sprinkler system they hope will keep sea lions from sunbathing on boats.

Last year, after more than two dozen sea lions invaded the harbor, boat owners were urged to barricade their boats and local authorities banned feeding the massive marine mammals. The sea lions have returned, news reports say, and residents are hoping this non-lethal sprinkler system, called The Scarecrow, will keep the animals away. Sea lions sunbathe on boats in the harbor and apparently don’t like to be squirted with cold water.

“We don’t pepper-spray them; we don’t shoot them. I think people would like us to, but we don’t,” says Orange County Harbor Patrol Capt. Deana Bergquist in a news report.

Sea lions aggravated residents last summer with noisy barking, and damaged a number of boats. Over Labor Day weekend, 18 of the massive marine mammals — adult males can weigh as much as 1,000 pounds depending on the species — reportedly piled onto a classic sailboat and sank it.

Some boat owners last year reportedly went as far as stringing wire-and-milk-carton barricades around their vessels to keep the federally protected sea lions off. Others placed lawn chairs upside down on their swim platforms. Harbor officials considered using underwater firecrackers, predator sounds and actual scarecrows to help “shoo away” the animals, according to a news report.

“It’s hard to control nature,” says Chris Miller, the city’s harbor resources supervisor, says in a news report. “But we’re doing our best.”

— Jason Fell