Huge Sea Lion Stops Traffic in Alaska Town, Police Use Cars to Herd It Toward the Water

by Craig Garrett
Antarctic fur seal, arched backwards - stock photo

Sgt. Chad Clements with the Valdez Police Department had an unforgettable shift when a sea lion stopped traffic in his Alaskan community. On Friday morning, Clements stated that multiple people called in about spotting a sea lion on land near the harbor. Soon, they received a call that the animal had relocated. It was seen in the parking lot of an RV park near the local Captain Joe’s Gas Station. This was much farther from its natural habitat than where it was initially spotted, the Anchorage Daily News reports.

“It was like, ‘All right, he’s going the wrong way,’ ” Clements recalled. The sergeant and a few other officers went to look for the sea lion. Police tried to drive it toward the water by honking their car horns and shining lights at it occasionally. The animal looked tired.”It took a while,” Clements explained. “I mean, he’d move along and then he would kind of lay down.”

It was a Friday morning, busy because school had just started. By the time officers got the sea lion to Richardson Highway, they had to stop traffic so the animal could lumber across and get into the water. The RV park’s manager offered his backhoe to help move it through a swampy area. “We did what we had to do for public safety reasons,” Clements stated. “And we wanted to make sure [the sea lion] didn’t die, obviously.”

The confused sea lion returns to pester local police

Upon the sea lion’s return to the water, officers thought they were out of the woods. But then, cross-town and over to Valdez dry dock at the harbor it went. As if this animal didn’t cause enough commotion, there was more convincing required by law enforcement for it to swim back from whence it came. Clements was pleased to see the animal go into the water after a while.

Kim Raum-Suryan, Steller sea lion coordinator with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration stated that photos imply the sea lion was a male sub-adult. His age would range from 5 to 8 years old. At this stage of their lives, they are slowly getting bigger but aren’t completely grown yet. On average, they weigh up to 1,700 pounds. When adult males reach their prime weight ,they can weigh over 2,000 pounds.

Raum-Suryan stated that though it’s rare, sea lions making their way into Alaska towns is not unheard of. The last time she heard about a situation like this was in 2018 in Sitka, where it took four days to get a scared Steller sea lion out of the forest and back into the water. In the end, Raum-Suryan had to tranquilize the animal before moving him via truck and front-end loader.

The law enforcement in Valdez, AK are used to getting calls about local wildlife, but they were surprised when they got a call about a lost sea lion. “I’ve dealt with some otters, I’ve dealt with bears, I’ve dealt with dogs, cats. It’s not like I’ve ever found like a boa constrictor or a python out there, that’d be probably the top,” Clements explained. “But a sea lion, I wouldn’t forget this one.”