Newport unleashes Wile E. and other plastic coyotes to scare off harbor’s sea lions

The idea of a coyote prowling on your boat’s swim step would probably freak you out. The city of Newport Beach’s harbor department is hoping it will do the same to sea lions.

The coyotes are plastic, but the sea lions don’t have to know that.

The city recently acquired a pack of coyote decoys that are stationed on boats and docks around Newport Harbor as scarecrows against sea lions, those coastal creatures that are charming to some but pesky to others.

The portly, pungent pinnipeds often invite themselves onto boats and docks to bask in the sun, damaging decks and otherwise being unruly, and boat owners try all manner of barriers to keep them in the water and off their property.

City Harbormaster Dennis Durgan borrowed the coyote idea about a month ago from the Newport Harbor Yacht Club. He said the dockmaster there reported some success in using decoys in the club’s mooring field, so Durgan had his division order eight decoys at about $25 each to place at known sea lion magnets. Harbor workers keep track of where the decoys are as boat and homeowners get more-permanent abatement measures in place.

The city requires boat owners to keep sea lions off their vessels and suggests several methods: blocking swim steps or decks with cloth covers, patio furniture, potted plants, large plastic buckets, snow fencing or kayaks. Those with an engineering inclination can build a solar-powered, motion-activated sprinkler to interrupt the animals’ basking.

The city’s three-dimensional coyote dummies are life-size and look ready to pounce, with backs arched, teeth bared and yellow eyes wide and fixed. The bodies are plastic but the tails are furry and twitch in the breeze.

Newport’s floaty coyotes are named for “Looney Tunes” characters, harbor worker Jessica Allen said. Wile E. was a given. The others are Bugs, Elmer, Sylvester, Yosemite, Taz, Marvin and Babs.

Walmart, a decoy retailer, says the dummies repel geese, ducks, rabbits, skunks and rodents. It doesn’t mention sea lions.

But Newport is willing to expand the coyotes’ use.

“We are hopeful the sea lions slow down their partying soon so all can get some sleep at night,” Durgan said.

hillary.davis@latimes.com

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