Sea lion hunter


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THE SUNDAY OREGONIAN, JULY 17, 1921

Hunter Faces Task Of Killing 3000 Seals And Sea Lions In Next Two Years - To wipe out menace to Salmon Industry of Oregon is job that Gold Beach man does not hesitate to undertake-habits of animals are described.

W.M. Hunter of Gold Beach, OR., has before him a task which daunt many a man. In the next two years he hopes to kill all of the 3,000 seals and sea lions along the Oregon coast.

He does not hesitate about beginning the work, however, because he is an experienced hunter of sea lions, which are considered a great menace to the salmon industry of the state.

Mr. Hunter could write a book on "The gentle Art of Killing Sea Lions," but he never will for he is one of those really modest men who count their accomplishment as naught. He knows his business and finds it fascinating in many ways, and that is enough for him.

"Sea lions are much like sheep: you have to remember that when you go after them," he mused the other day. He had just come to Portland after 2-1/2 months of hunting his prey. He had killed in that time 1671 in all.

"If you handle them in the right way, you can kill a large number without scaring off the rest. If you make the mistake of exciting them, they become frightened, leave the rock for the water and may not return for weeks. Then you must waste time waiting for them to come back."

"What is my system? Well, we run up in the boat within 300 feet of a rock, anchor and then I go ashore in a small boat. Everything depends on shooting systematically. If the firing is done too rapidly, the sea lion become alarmed and begin slipping off into the water."

"I usually begin shooting those along the edge of the water and work around the rock gradually. As soon as the lions become restless and begin to move about, then it is time to stop shooting and wait until they calm down a bit."

"Are they sleepy, gentle creatures, or do you ever have trouble with them?" he was asked.

"Why, they're the meanest things in the world," Mr. Hunter said, much surprised to find that the habits and dispositions of sea lions are not common knowledge. "I never let one get above me on a rock. They are as strong as can be. I have seen a cow hurl one of her young 60 feet through the air."

Mr. hunter has had no unpleasant personal encounters, however, because he has learned from years of experience just what the animals will do under every condition.

Although Mr. Hunter does all of the shooting himself, he has six helpers who assist in the scalping and skinning. The men live on the boat which Mr. Hunter had built especially for this work. It is 57-1/2 feet long. Is equipped with living accommodations for eight men and has sufficient hold space for the hides and scalps, as they are taken day to day. The boat has been named "The Hunter" and is equipped with a gasoline engine and sails.

Mr. Hunter made several record catches in the six seasons in which he has been killing seals and sea lions. His record kill for one day is 282, another day he shot 225.

"There were more of them in the years I shot that many in a day, than there are now," said the huntsman. "One day out of every season it is possible to get a big kill. We go along killing about 50 or 60 a day and then finally find all in that vicinity gathered on one rock. It is possible to get a lot of them at one time."

"The season during which we work lasts four months. We usually begin about the middle of May or earlier."

Mr. Hunter began this season at the Port Orford reefs and covered the rookeries on Arch Rock, the Rogue River reef, Heceta Head, Cape Mears and Tillamook head.

"The seals and sea lions eat in the open season more salmon than the coast can pack," he said. Estimating the number of fish they each eat during a day at 300, which is a conservative estimate, and for as the number of fish they each eat during a day, they consume 1,840,000 salmon during the 157 days of the open season.

"Seals weigh from 150 to 225 pounds and the sea lions weigh from 1,000 pounds to two tons. They eat just the head of the salmon or sometimes about one-third of the fish, as much as they can grab at one bite. They catch the fish as it is swimming towards them."

"They have enormous stomachs. They don't masticate their catch at all, but swallow everything whole. I cut open the stomach of a sea lion once and found a whole devil fish, about 10 feet long, which had been swallowed in sections."

One fisherman was said to have found 44 salmon heads in the stomach of a sea lion, but Mr. Hunter has never found more than 15.

The sea lions are found in the ocean, but the seals, which are much smaller come into the streams along the coast. The seals are killed with dynamite. Mr. Hunter has arranged for a diver to bring the bodies of the dead seals to the surface.

Many seals are found in the Columbia river at Snag Island and on the mud flats above Tongue Point and small islands in that vicinity.

The season for killing will last about 45 days more. Mr. Hunter will do some killing along the Washington coast this season.
 

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