COWLITZ COUNTY, Wash. — A sea lion wandered far from home in Cowlitz County over the weekend, leading to a standoff with deputies.
The Steller sea lion, weighing around 600 pounds, was discovered in a wooded area near Garlock Road outside the town of Castle Rock.
The animal was about two miles from a viable water source, according to OregonLive.
Sheriff's deputies, Fish and Wildlife officers, and representatives from the Cowlitz County Humane Society had to wait several hours for a trailer to arrive to transport the animal back to the water.
In the meantime, wildlife officers kept track of the sea lion as it moved around the neighborhood overnight. It was a significant distance from water, according to deputies, and was blocking the road at times. At one point, the animal popped up on a homeowner’s driveway.
WDFW believes the female sea lion was hunting smelt, a small fish. Sea lions are common in the Cowlitz River this time of year, but it’s rare for them to make their way up small tributaries. Officials believe this animal swam up Delameter Creek, which is only about 3 feet deep.
The animal was finally captured, but it wasn't easy.
“It’s an interesting situation trying to corral a 500+ pound animal into a place it doesn’t want to go,” said Becky Bennett of WDFW.
Bennett said while the animal isn’t usually aggressive, it is a wild and could defend itself if stressed, so crews proceeded carefully. They decided not to try and tranquilize the animal for its own safety – one that size could require 5 darts,
Bennett added it’s only the second time in recent memory a sea lion has made it so far from the water.
WDFW crews said when the animal was finally released into the Columbia River it swam away without any issues.