Fish and Wildlife Service Proposes that Southern Sea Otter Translocation Program be Terminated", "Service Proposes to End Southern Sea Otter Translocation Program", "Rare sighting of sea otter off Laguna Beach", "U.S. will let otters roam along Southern California coastline", "California's Sea Otter Numbers Continue Slow Climb", "California Sea Otter Numbers Drop Again", "Spring 2010 Mainland California Sea Otter Survey Results", "Another deadly challenge for the sea otter", "Evidence for a Novel Marine Harmful Algal Bloom: Cyanotoxin (Microcystin) Transfer from Land to Sea Otters", Spring 2014 California Sea Otter Census Results, "Otters vs. These sea otter may have dispersed from San Nicolas Island, which is 300 kilometres (190 mi) away, as individuals have been recorded traversing distances of over 800 kilometres (500 mi). The most significant threat to sea otters is oil spills,[59] to which they are particularly vulnerable, since they rely on their fur to keep warm. Mortality for river otter pups has been estimated at about 32% in the first year, and 54% the second year (when most attain independence). A raft of otters can be anything from two otters to hundreds! Sea otter pelts were given in potlatches to mark coming-of-age ceremonies, weddings, and funerals. [30], The sea otter displays numerous adaptations to its marine environment. At 105 min into the encounter, the sea otter released the pup, now dead, and began grooming. [91] They are found most often in areas with protection from the most severe ocean winds, such as rocky coastlines, thick kelp forests, and barrier reefs. Although it can walk on land, the sea otter is capable of living exclusively in the ocean. [100] By 2013, this population exceeded 1,100 individuals, was increasing at an estimated 12.6% annual rate, and its range included Aristazabal Island, and Milbanke Sound south to Calvert Island. [24] For its size, the male otter's baculum is very large, massive and bent upwards, measuring 150 mm (5.9 in) in length and 15 mm (0.59 in) at the base. [98] By 2004, sea otters had repopulated all of their former habitat in these areas, with an estimated total population of about 27,000. [31] The hind feet, which provide most of its propulsion in swimming, are long, broadly flattened, and fully webbed. [166] Prices rose as the species became rare. [26] Most of its need for water is met through food, although, in contrast to most other marine mammals, it also drinks seawater. Some individuals have lived more than 20 years in zoological parks. [132][133] A record number of sea otter carcasses were found on California's coastline in 2010, with increased shark attacks an increasing component of the mortality. Dead Sea Otters: Santa Cruz County and North: California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) 831-212-7010 Sea otters have webbed feet, water-repellent fur to keep them dry and warm, and nostrils and ears that close in the water. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) determined that the population should exceed 3,090 for three consecutive years. [92] Although they are most strongly associated with rocky substrates, sea otters can also live in areas where the sea floor consists primarily of mud, sand, or silt. [121] By 2005, only 30 sea otters remained at San Nicolas,[122] although they were slowly increasing as they thrived on the abundant prey around the island. [98] Growth has slowed slightly, suggesting the numbers are reaching carrying capacity. Articles depicting sea otters were considered to have magical properties. The nostrils and small ears can close. [180] Scientists agree that sea otters and abalone fisheries cannot exist in the same area,[180] and the same is likely true for certain other types of shellfish, as well. The cry of a pup is often compared to that of a gull. Currently, the most stable and secure part of the sea otter's range is Russia. SeaDoc Society is a program of the Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center. [85] Several captive individuals have lived past 20 years, and a female at the Seattle Aquarium died at the age of 28 years. [69] In California, sea otters usually breed every year, about twice as often as those in Alaska. [124] Sea otters were observed twice in Southern California in 2011, once near Laguna Beach and once at Zuniga Point Jetty, near San Diego. [156] In 1741, on his second North Pacific voyage, Bering was shipwrecked off Bering Island in the Commander Islands, where he and many of his crew died. To eat large sea urchins, which are mostly covered with spines, the sea otter bites through the underside where the spines are shortest, and licks the soft contents out of the urchin's shell. [3] At birth, the eyes are open, ten teeth are visible, and the pup has a thick coat of baby fur. Alaskan sea otters often have lighter fur on their heads, and the fur usually lightens as an otter gets older. [146], The individuals within a particular area often differ in their foraging methods and prey types, and tend to follow the same patterns as their mothers. It has a highly buoyant, elongated body, blunt snout and small, wide head. [160] By the 1760s, the Russians had reached Alaska. It must eat an estimated 25 to 38% of its own body weight in food each day to burn the calories necessary to counteract the loss of heat due to the cold water environment. A sea otter’s metabolism is two to three times higher than the metabolism of a … The recovery of the sea otter is considered an important success in marine conservation, although populations in the Aleutian Islands and California have recently declined or have plateaued at depressed levels. San Francisco Bay, they found, could potentially support 6,000 otters—more than double the population of sea otters currently ranging from California to British Columbia. [63] During this time, males patrol the boundaries of their territories to exclude other males,[63] although actual fighting is rare. [159] The Aleut population was reduced, by the Russians' own estimate, from 20,000 to 2,000. The Seattle Aquarium’s oldest sea otter, Lootas, died Sunday at age 23. [129][130] As of spring 2010, the northern boundary had moved from about Tunitas Creek to a point 2 km southeast of Pigeon Point, and the southern boundary has moved from approximately Coal Oil Point to Gaviota State Park. In 1973, the population in Alaska was estimated at between 100,000 and 125,000 animals. [193] In 2007, a YouTube video of two sea otters holding paws drew 1.5 million viewers in two weeks, and had over 20 million views as of January 2015[update]. To the surprise of biologists, the majority of the San Nicolas sea otters swam back to the mainland. However, biologists have confirmed isolated sightings of sea otters in these areas since the mid-1990s. [60] The Aleuts carved sea otter bones for use as ornaments and in games, and used powdered sea otter baculum as a medicine for fever. (, CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (. We … This more than three percent increase is a reason for cautious optimism. Santa Cruz, CA - The annual survey of sea otters off the California mainland shows a count of 2,882, and that is an increase of 90 compared to the prior year. Otters live an average of 10 to 15 years. Under Aleksandr I, the administration of the merchant-controlled company was transferred to the Imperial Navy, largely due to the alarming reports by naval officers of native abuse; in 1818, the indigenous peoples of Alaska were granted civil rights equivalent to a townsman status in the Russian Empire. [172], Many facets of the interaction between sea otters and the human economy are not as immediately felt. [182] In some areas, sea otters are popular tourist attractions, bringing visitors to local hotels, restaurants, and sea otter-watching expeditions. The sea otter is the heaviest (the giant otter is longer, but significantly slimmer) member of the family Mustelidae,[3] a diverse group that includes the 13 otter species and terrestrial animals such as weasels, badgers, and minks. [59] The Exxon Valdez oil spill of 24 March 1989 killed thousands of sea otters in Prince William Sound, and as of 2006, the lingering oil in the area continues to affect the population. [46] The teeth and bones are sometimes stained purple as a result of ingesting sea urchins. This incredible fur almost led to the near extinction of the sea otter, which was hunted down to only a few colonies. [188] These links have been associated with the many human-like behavioral features of the sea otter, including apparent playfulness, strong mother-pup bonds and tool use, yielding to ready anthropomorphism. [55], Along the North American coast south of Alaska, the sea otter's range is discontinuous. Cyanobacteria are found in stagnant freshwater enriched with nitrogen and phosphorus from septic tank and agricultural fertilizer runoff, and may be flushed into the ocean when streamflows are high in the rainy season. [28] As the ability of the guard hairs to repel water depends on utmost cleanliness, the sea otter has the ability to reach and groom the fur on any part of its body, taking advantage of its loose skin and an unusually supple skeleton. [16] Originally named Lutra marina, it underwent numerous name changes before being accepted as Enhydra lutris in 1922. [147] The diet of local populations also changes over time, as sea otters can significantly deplete populations of highly preferred prey such as large sea urchins, and prey availability is also affected by other factors such as fishing by humans. [71] Twins occur in 2% of births; however, usually only one pup survives. Along the coasts of what is now Mexico and California, Spanish explorers bought sea otter pelts from Native Americans and sold them in Asia. This allows space for competing species and increases species diversity.[152]. [141] Where prey such as sea urchins, clams, and abalone are present in a range of sizes, sea otters tend to select larger items over smaller ones of similar type. They choose rocky shores where powerful winds blow. Sea otters may help mitigate effects of climate change by their cascading trophic influence[150], Reintroduction of sea otters to British Columbia has led to a dramatic improvement in the health of coastal ecosystems,[151] and similar changes have been observed as sea otter populations recovered in the Aleutian and Commander Islands and the Big Sur coast of California[152] However, some kelp forest ecosystems in California have also thrived without sea otters, with sea urchin populations apparently controlled by other factors. A major Ainu epic, the Kutune Shirka, tells the tale of wars and struggles over a golden sea otter. They do, however, play an important role in the Salish Sea. Many Aleuts were either murdered by the Russians or died from diseases the hunters had introduced. [116] Historical records revealed the Russian-American Company sneaked Aleuts into San Francisco Bay multiple times, despite the Spanish capturing or shooting them while hunting sea otters in the estuaries of San Jose, San Mateo, San Bruno and around Angel Island. [66] Distressed or frightened adults may whistle, hiss, or in extreme circumstances, scream. [110] On 18 February 2009, a male sea otter was spotted in Depoe Bay off the Oregon Coast. [16], During the 20th century, sea otter numbers rebounded in about two-thirds of their historic range, a recovery considered one of the greatest successes in marine conservation. Sea otters currently have stable populations in parts of the Russian east coast, Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, and California, with reports of recolonizations in Mexico and Japan. [144] The fish species were usually bottom-dwelling and sedentary or sluggish forms, such as Hemilepidotus hemilepidotus and family Tetraodontidae. Sea otters are furry and photogenic, but those aren't the only reasons to save them from extinction. Fish and Wildlife Service, told Hakai Magazine that this number is more than double 2014’s-- which … [178][179], Some of the sea otter's preferred prey species, particularly abalone, clams, and crabs, are also food sources for humans. [43], An adult's 32 teeth, particularly the molars, are flattened and rounded for crushing rather than cutting food. [172] The most widely accepted, but still controversial, hypothesis is that killer whales have been eating the otters. [55], The sea otter hunts in short dives, often to the sea floor. [159] In 1778, British explorer Captain James Cook reached Vancouver Island and bought sea otter furs from the First Nations people. [62], A male sea otter is most likely to mate if he maintains a breeding territory in an area that is also favored by females. [16] Sea otters can thoroughly remove abalone from an area except for specimens in deep rock crevices,[148] however, they never completely wipe out a prey species from an area. [191], Sea otters can do well in captivity, and are featured in over 40 public aquariums and zoos. [129] In response to recovery efforts, the population climbed steadily from the mid-20th century through the early 2000s, then remained relatively flat from 2005 to 2014 at just under 3,000. The sea otters are either found dead or have been euthanized due to severe injury or disease that is considered unlikely to allow them to survive. [33] The tail is fairly short, thick, slightly flattened, and muscular. [52] Foraging resumes for a few hours in the afternoon and subsides before sunset, and a third foraging period may occur around midnight. [59] The liver, kidneys, and lungs of sea otters also become damaged after they inhale oil or ingest it when grooming. The sea otter inhabits nearshore environments, where it dives to the sea floor to forage. [26] With up to 150,000 strands of hair per square centimetre (nearly one million per sq in), its fur is the densest of any animal. [152] The role of sea otters in maintaining kelp forests has been observed to be more important in areas of open coast than in more protected bays and estuaries. [115], Sea otters were once numerous in San Francisco Bay. Russian fur-hunting expeditions soon depleted the sea otter populations in the Commander Islands, and by 1745, they began to move on to the Aleutian Islands. [84] A captive male sired offspring at age 19. The sea otter was formerly sometimes referred to as the "sea beaver",[19] being the marine fur-bearer similar in commercial value to the terrestrial beaver. Ames found that dead sea otters, after they come out of rigor mortis, often float in a similar shape as a car tire cut in half. They keep the population of certain benthic (sea floor) herbivores, particularly sea urchins, in check. [2] A subsequent international ban on hunting, sea otter conservation efforts, and reintroduction programs into previously populated areas have contributed to numbers rebounding, and the species occupies about two-thirds of its former range. With the recent increase of dead sea otters found ashore, it’s clear that things aren’t looking great for the sea otter population. [177] An estimated 1,200 sea otters live within the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, and more than 500 live within the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. [38] The sea otter's body is highly buoyant because of its large lung capacity – about 2.5 times greater than that of similar-sized land mammals[39] – and the air trapped in its fur. After the years of the Great Hunt, the population in these areas, currently part of Russia, was only 750. [112][113][114] Their principal range has gradually expanded and extends from Pigeon Point in San Mateo County to Santa Barbara County. [13] According to the U.S. Geological Survey and the CDC, northern sea otters off Washington have been infected with the H1N1 flu virus and "may be a newly identified animal host of influenza viruses". [26], Under each foreleg, the sea otter has a loose pouch of skin that extends across the chest. [76] A pup, with guidance from its mother, practices swimming and diving for several weeks before it is able to reach the sea floor. [120] The plan that authorized the translocation program had predicted the carrying capacity would be reached within five to 10 years. [7], Fossil evidence indicates the Enhydra lineage became isolated in the North Pacific approximately 2 million years ago, giving rise to the now-extinct Enhydra macrodonta and the modern sea otter, Enhydra lutris. Young predators may kill an otter and not eat it. 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