Aggressive sea lion forces closure of Powell River fish cleaning stations

The animal, dubbed "Walter" by locals, was first spotted city's north harbour last year.

'It was a little too close,' city manager says

Wildlife officials say the California sea lion known to locals as Walter, shown here in the Powell River Harbour, is showing signs of aggressive behaviour. (Dave Carbery)

An aggressive sea lion has prompted the closure of fish cleaning stations in Powell River, B.C.

The animal, dubbed "Walter" by locals, was first spotted city's north harbour last year. Since then, the California sea lion has returned, showing little fear of people.

"It's getting very close to the dock," said Shawn Cator, the city's operations manager. 

"You'd be within two or three feet of the animal [standing on the dock]. It was a little too close."

Cator said that, over time, the animal was attracted back to the harbour for food because workers cleaning fish at the stations usually throw scraps into the water. 

The manager added that visitors are also causing problems. 

"We did hear incidents of people wanting to take photos of the sea lion and enticing it with food," said Cator. "It's getting a little bit more aggressive."

In an effort to encourage the animal to leave, the harbour authority decided to temporarily shut down the fish cleaning station earlier this week.

The sea lion hasn't been seen since then, so Cator said the closure may have done the trick.  

'Walter' returns 

The manager said officials are convinced it's the same sea lion returning over and over on account of its characteristic aggressive behaviour and willingness to approach people.

"The indications are that it is the same lion," Cator told CBC's On The Coast

On May 20, a sea lion snatched a six-year-old girl into the water after she sat on the edge of a dock in Richmond, B.C. She required medical treatment for a superficial wound but it's believed she'll make a full recovery.

Cator said the incident is another reminder about the danger of getting too close to sea lions.

"They look harmless, but they're not," he said. "We want to make sure people are aware of that."

With files from CBC's All Points West