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Visitors to Oregon Coast Delighted by Sea Lion Behavior Called Rafting

Published 12/09/2015 at 4:43 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

(Manzanita, Oregon) – Back in those sunny, glittery days of a mere two weeks ago, a not-too-often seen sight amazed Oregon coast visitors and residents. The dark bodies of some sort of sea creatures were bundled together in a behavior called rafting, which one form of marine mammal exhibits when actually sleeping on the water. Photos by Scott Redd.

What was going on and what were they? The sciencie is as awesome as the sight itself.

Manzanita part time resident Scott J. Redd took these photos in Manzanita on the big holiday weekend, back when the coast was still basking in sunny conditions – which now seems like a distant memory with the crazed storm conditions hitting this week. Glancing out at the ocean, and armed with a 500 mm lens, he spotted bunches of bodies floating out there, and at first he thought they were porpoises.

“They were going inland, about 10 to 14 of them,” Redd said. “ I saw it over a period two or three hours. They were surfing, really. That's what they were up to.”
First he watched them from the beach, and then eventually moved up to the overlooks at Neahkahnie.

Redd then posted the spectacular shots to a Manzanita Facebook page, and it immediately lit up. Once Oregon Coast Beach Connection reposted them, a couple of others said they'd seen the same thing in Cannon Beach, Brookings, Lincoln City and other places in recent days.

Redd eventually decided they had to be seals, but Seaside Aquarium's Tiffany Boothe said they were in fact sea lions and they were engaged in a behavior called rafting.

“A number of sea lions will cluster together to rest or sleep,” Boothe said. “They typically do this when there is not a suitable haul-out.”

It's not uncommon for sea lions to pile up together like this, it just isn't often seen from shore by humans. Many times, they're just too far out to be easily seen.

They are often – literally – asleep when they start rafting. They're snoozing above the water and even just below the water, rising periodically to take a breath. You can tell which ones are just below the surface by the fact their bellies or backs are showing. Sometimes they're foraging for food while rafting as well.

Rafting is exhibited by both California sea lions and Stellar sea lions, which both make their homes across the entire west coast.

They frequently float with one flipper in the air while rafting as well, which scientists aren't completely sure about. It's likely this is to help regulate temperature or that they can align themselves within the group.

Occasionally, rafting sea lions have been known to create false alarms. Some people at first think it's a large sea faring mammal trapped in a net, while others think they are seeing the dead bodies of sea lions or seals.

Sea lions also put on such a show in Cannon Beach over the summer when the north coast had that incredible run of Humpback whales in that area and around Astoria. Boothe snapped numerous photos of rafting sea lions up the Columbia River and at Haystack Rock during that time. Where to stay when trying to see this - Where to eat - Maps and Virtual Tours





Photos of sea lion rafting below by Tiffany Boothe of Seaside Aquarium

 

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A famous little family eatery where the seafood practically gets shuffled from the sea straight into your mouth. Soups and salads include many seafood specialties, including cioppino, chowders, crab Louie and cheese breads. Fish 'n' chips come w/ various fish. Seafood sandwiches with shrimp, tuna or crab, as well as burgers. Dinners like pan fried oysters, fillets of salmon or halibut, saut�ed scallops.
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