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San Diego may bark its “problem” seals away

Harassing the seals is illegal on San Diego’s beaches — unless you’re the city of San Diego and a court has ordered you to do it.

The city Friday submitted plans that include broadcasting the sound of barking dogs for use if and when it is ordered to stop harbor seals from congregating at La Jolla’s Children’s Pool beach, where their numbers have raised health concerns and precluded children’s play.

A lawsuit against the city claims the seals’ presence violates the terms of the 1913 trust that established the beach as a safe wading area for children. Attorneys representing the plaintiff filed a motion last week asking that the seals be immediately dispersed. The lawsuit was filed not against the seals, or Mother Nature, but against the city.

If the order comes, according to the La Jolla Light, the city would use loudspeakers to broadcast the sound of barking dogs to attempt to disperse the seals. Other steps outlined include having employees or contractors harass the seals from afar, possibly spraying water at them.

The plan, at an estimated cost of $688,934, would require personnel to walk the beach from sunrise to sunset, seven days a week for a year, .

(Note to the city of San Diego: Ace and I hereby volunteer for that contract; for half that price, we’d even be willing to camp there at night. Ace would bark at seals and act intimidating, while I would patrol the shore, saying, “Move along now, seals, nothing to see here.”)

The plan submitted to the court also includes steps to protect the public, noting that dispersing the seals “has a high potential to create an environment requiring a police response.” It includes facilitating traffic flow, monitoring demonstrations, keeping the peace and responding to calls. Animal welfare activists have spoken out against evicting the seals.

For a closer look at the plan, you can find it on a council member’s website.


Comment from JorgeG
Time May 25, 2009 at 9:24 am

Is there any reason why they are using the sound of barking dogs though? Do they just picked an annoying sound? I can’t explain why it costs more than 1/2 a million either.

Comment from Anne’n’Spencer
Time May 25, 2009 at 10:45 pm

This reminds me of the town of Banff in the Canadian Rockies. We arrived at the national park for a camping trip during the annual September elk matrimonial olympics. We had fond memories of seeing elk wandering around the town on a previous trip.

A park warden explained that there had been too many bad human/elk encounters and that they’d had to resort to “hazing” the elk. In the case of the town’s two schools, this involved having Park personnel arrive at the school playgrounds at 7 a.m. Several people would walk around with flags, conveniently attached to broomsticks or hockey sticks, held high above their heads. Elk don’t like to be around things that are taller than they are. If things got too bad, the humans would set off small firecrackers.

(I had learned in Jasper, that other Canadian jewel of a park, that it’s OK to meet up with elk if you are on horseback. I did that by meeting up with some elk while I was on horseback. Sure enough, they left.)

The whole idea is to piss off the animals so that they’ll go somewhere else–without hurting them. It shouldn’t have to cost a half million dollars. I’m betting the Banff elk hazing program cost a good deal less than that, and it worked.