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Sea Lion Threat May Be Diminishing On Oregon Coast
(Oregon Coast) – It appears as if the deadly disease that had attacked sea lions this past summer and fall - and had threatened humans - is on a sharp decline.
The disease is called leptospirosis, and it was infecting California sea lions in enormous numbers this past year, something made worse the by fact there’s a huge boost in the population of California sea lions in this area. It often kills them and their bodies wash up onshore. The disease can spread to humans and dogs who come in contact with an infected sea lion.
State authorities went to great lengths to make sure the public kept away from these mammals lying on the beaches, and many beaches had warning signs posted. There were even a handful in some parts of the central coast that restricted the presence of dogs.
While state officials admit there’s been a significant drop in the incidence of infected sea lions and the subsequent risk to humans, they stop just shy of saying the epidemic is over.
“Reports of dead seals and sea lions has fallen sharply since December,” said Chris Havel, with Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. “We do normally see an autumn uptick in animals succumbing to Leptospirosis (an infectious kidney disease).”
Havel had no firm numbers regarding the drop. But during summer and fall, the Marine Mammal Stranding Network and Oregon coast park rangers were responding to dozens a week on the central coast. There were quite a few on the south coast, in places like Coquille or Bandon, but not nearly as many as Lincoln County or parts of northern Lane County.
At one point in the fall, BeachConnection.net interviewed central coast ranger David Woody. On that day, he still had six dead sea lions to deal with in his area alone, and he had buried eight of them two days before that.
The north coast, including towns like Pacific City, Cannon Beach or Seaside, received little or no reports of the disease.
In spite of the drop, Havel and state authorities are quick to point out you should still be extremely cautious if you see a dead creature on the beach.
“Even so, you will still encounter dead and dying mammals through the winter on the ocean shore, even if the big peak has passed,” Havel said.
“You always need to give marine birds and mammals (whether they're healthy or not) a wide berth on the shore. Our year-round advice for all visitors is this: keep control of your pets. Leashes are best, hands down. This protects your animal, yourself and the other people enjoying the coast. Well-trained animals who respond to your voice commands are a distant, second-best choice, but a good leash (even a long one) is the surest way to protect your animal's safety.”
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