Agents trap salmon-eating sea lions in Ore.-Wash. river

One by one, curious California sea lions checked out the open cage left invitingly on a platform in the Columbia River below Bonneville Dam and flopped inside to chill out on the nice flat surface.

Big mistake.

Around noon the door clanged shut and state agents concluded their first day of trapping the salmon-hungry sea mammals. The sea lions weren’t having much fun behind bars Thursday, but it beat the bullet between the eyes some came within a whisker of getting under a federal removal authorization.

A day earlier the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that some of the animals could be trapped but not killed in reply to a lawsuit brought by the Humane Society of the United States.

The sea lions are protected by a 1972 federal law. An amendment, however, leaves open the possibility that some can be captured or killed if the states request it. Oregon and Washington did in 2006 with the support of Indian tribes and sport and commercial fishing groups.

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