Oregon wildlife officials have started killing California sea lions that threaten a fragile run of winter steelhead in the Willamette River, a body of water that’s miles inland from the coastal areas where the massive carnivorous aquatic mammals usually congregate to feed.The state Department of Fish and Wildlife obtained a federal permit in November to kill up to 93 California sea lions annually below Willamette Falls south of Portland, Oregon. As of last week, wildlife managers have killed three of the animals using traps they used last year to relocate the sea lions, said Bryan Wright, project manager for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s marine resources program.The adult male sea lions, which weigh nearly 1,000 pounds (454 kilograms) each, have learned that they can loiter under the falls and snack on the vulnerable steelhead as the fish power their way upriver to the streams where they hatched. Steelhead travel to sea from inland rivers, grow to adulthood in the Pacific Ocean and then return to their natal river to spawn and then die.The sea lions breed each summer off Southern California and northern Mexico, then the males cruise up the Pacific Coast to forage. Hunted for their thick fur, the mammals’ numbers dropped dramatically but have rebounded from 30,000 in the late 1960s to about 300,000 today because of the 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act. Published in Daily Times, January 12th 2019.