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Chicago's Shedd Aquarium Offers To Adopt "Criminal" Sea Lions

By Samantha Abernethy in News on Apr 25, 2012 9:00PM

The Shedd Aquarium has offered to take the next sea lion caught illegally eating salmon at the Bonneville Dam in Washington state. Federal law allows state officials to capture and euthanize California sea lions caught eating the endangered salmon. Our pals at SFist told us about this phenomenon a couple weeks ago, and four sea lions have been killed in recent weeks.

The Shedd Aquarium writes:

The sea lions that live near the Bonneville Dam on the Washington-Oregon border developed a taste for endangered salmon. Climbing the “fish ladder,” a stair-stepped waterfall that allows spawning salmon headed upstream to swim around the dam, the sea lions had easy access to their imperiled prey. To protect the salmon, the federal government took the extreme action of culling this sea lion group. Shedd was one of several zoos and aquariums that stepped forward to rescue a few of these animals, adopting two adult males.

The sea lions the Shedd adopted in 2009 were Bif and Otis. The Shedd lost 13-year-old sea lion Otis in March to urogenital cancer, and it has space to harbor another one of these "criminal" sea lions.

"It's what we all would prefer see happen," said Craig Bartlett, a Washington state wildlife official told California Watch. "We'd rather see them find new homes."

It's not so easy to just pick any sea lion, though. It must meet certain conditions, including general health and size. Since the 2008 federal law allowing the killing of sea lions eating endangered salmon, about 35 sea lions have been killed, while 10 have been transferred to aquariums or zoos.

So far this year, sea lions have eaten 130 fish at the dam, about 2 percent of the run. The Humane Society has filed a lawsuit against the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.