Lincoln City residents had an extra guest for Thanksgiving weekend: a sea lion who spent Friday evening wandering a residential part of town.
The sea lion came out of the Siletz River onto Southeast 51st Street, according to Lincoln City police, who arrived on the scene and set up a barrier around the animal.
With little experience corralling lost sea lions, officers turned to Oregon State Police Fish and Wildlife Division and North Lincoln Fire & Rescue, who also seemed stumped. Over the course of a couple of hours, officers attempted several plans to get the sea lion, who they named Tiffany, back in the water.
“Tiffany was very content on staying in the middle of the roadway and slowly moved closer to Highway 101,” the police department wrote in its account of the ordeal, posted to Facebook on Friday.
In order to lure the sea lion out of the road, authorities naturally turned to fish — an offer presumably too good to refuse. An officer went down the street to Kenny’s IGA Village Market, police said, where they procured several packages of fresh fish, donated by the store to the cause.
“The gift of fish was presented to Tiffany, who was interested in the fish, but was likely too overstimulated and unfortunately was not willing to follow the bait,” police said.
Maybe the fish wasn’t up to her ocean-fresh standards.
With their peace offering snubbed, police officers instead decided to corral the sea lion. Using sheets of plywood, they slowly herded Tiffany to the nearest river access point, three blocks away.
“After several breaks for the sake [of] Tiffany’s health, (and a few refreshing soaks from garden hoses) she was guided to an opening which led down to the river,” police said. “The tide was currently out and would be a while longer before she would be covered in water completely, but she settled down happily [in] a small stream section and seemed content to wait it out until the next tide.”
Officers said they had never seen anything of the sort in Lincoln City, but rogue sea lions are not unheard of in the Northwest.
In 2020, a massive sea lion wobbled its way down a road in Cowlitz County after leaving a river and making its way into the forested hills. The aggressive female challenged all who dared approach her, prolonging the standoff overnight and into the next day. Crews were eventually able to corral the sea lion into a cage and transport her back into the Columbia River.
Decades ago, Lincoln City had its own celebrity sea lion who was known for breaking into residents’ homes. That sea lion, named Joe, was lassoed and kept in a pen, briefly becoming a local celebrity, according to a detailed history of the event by Oregon Coast Beach Connection.
Like Tiffany, Joe refused to eat any fish offered by humans and eventually was taken back to the ocean — perhaps proving once and for all that the open water really is the only home for roving sea lions.