Term of the Day: ‘Cleptoparatism’

What happens when you mix two species of meat eaters with a bunch of meat? That’s right, cleptoparatism.

That’s what’s occurring at Bonneville Dam as California sea lions and Steller sea lions gather to feast on a building spring Chinook run.

As salmon have begun pouring over the dam — 7,719 alone yesterday, and 23,106 for the year — some of the big, fat Stellers haven’t been acting so stellarly. They’re snatching the salmon out of the mouth of their smaller relatives. While Californias can weigh as much as a grizzly bear, 1,000 pounds, Stellers can be double that size and then some — up to 2,500 pounds.

But the lighter lions aren’t backing down either.

Reports the Columbia Basin Bulletin:

“To date, Steller sea lions have stole fish from California sea lions 115 times, from other Stellers 5 times, and California sea lions have stolen prey from other California sea lions 9 times. California sea lions to date have been observed to catch 667 salmonids, and Steller sea lions have caught 237 salmonids.”

A record number of Stellers have gathered at the dam this year, though numbers of Californias are down, CBB reports. It’s believed both brands have killed 1,140 springers and steelhead so far, as well as 1,094 sturgeon, a record amount of sturgeon that is still growing though the pinnipeds are switching over to salmon.

Managers are culling some of the Californias, but can only haze away the Stellers due to more stringent federal protections.

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