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Sea lion takes the wheel of Orange County sheriff's deputies' boat; hilarity ensues

July 3, 2009 |  8:10 pm

Two Orange County sheriff's deputies had no idea what was in store for them when they went to investigate a report of marijuana-smoking juveniles on a dock in Newport Harbor last month. The deputies, James Slikker and Tracy Sizemore, went by boat to investigate. When they returned to their boat after the call, they encountered a young sea lion snapping at people on the dock.

Slikker and Sizemore lured the sea lion onto their boat, planning to release it in a safe area away from people. But, as the Orange County Register reported, what the sea lion did next made executing this plan decidedly difficult.

While the deputies were in the boat's main control area, the sea lion apparently wandered into the foul-weather station, which has a secondary steering wheel and set of controls. In short order, the boat's emergency lights, deck lights and various other equipment began turning on and off, and the deputies noticed the boat seemed to be steering itself. When they went to investigate, they found the sea lion in the driver's seat "randomly flipping switches," sheriff's spokesman John McDonald wrote on the department's blog. "He tried to bite the Deputies when they attempted to shoo him away. They managed to bring the boat to Marine Operations Headquarters despite the unruly sea lion."

Once at their headquarters, Slikker and Sizemore sprayed the sea lion through the cabin's window with water from a hose on the dock in an attempt to get it to leave the boat. Eventually, it ambled out of the cabin, crossed the dock and jumped into the water. (Slikker was sure to take pictures because, as he told the Register, "I thought, 'No one is going to believe this.' ")

-- Lindsay Barnett

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