In the 1970s, sea otters were found everywhere around the Aleutian Islands. We explore aging methods applicable to a living sea otter population by synthesizing more than two decades of physical examination data obtained during strandings (Nicholson et al., 2018), rearing for release (Mayer et al., 2019), and population monitoring (Tinker et al., 2006, 2013, 2017, 2018). These data, along with personal observations of sea otter behavior, supports the notion that digging activity by sea otters has the capacity to quickly reduce the upper extent of eelgrass habitat. Why We Need Sea Otters. Southern sea otters have been actively managed for their conservation and recovery since listing on the federal Endangered Species Act in 1977. Modern efforts in sea otter conservation began in the early 20th century, when the sea otter was nearly extinct due to large-scale commercial hunting. The southern sea otter population, which once numbered about 16,000 animals, is hovering around 3,000 today. Your Email Address. Starting from a few dozen remaining otters along the coast of Big Sur in the early 1900s, the current population of close to 3,000 animals now extends from just west of Santa Barbara to about 50 miles south of San Francisco. Estes’s observations revealed an “extraordinarily high” sea otter population around Amchitka, inhabiting a lush undersea world of kelp forests. Behavior. Currently, there are an estimated 3,000 otters on the coast of Vancouver Island. Sea otters spend much of their lives in the water and can dive up to 330 feet when foraging for food, though most dives are much shallower. Southern sea otters (Enhydra lutris nereis) are currently >80% depleted with respect to both abundance and range occupancy baselines, challenging the long-term persistence of the species and the ecosystem benefits their populations might provide. What’s more, the increase in sea otter numbers is helping keep a destructive sea urchin population at bay, allowing local kelp forests to recover. Once hunted to the brink of extinction for their luxuriant pelts, California sea otters rebounded after protections were put in place in 1911. The sea otter population originated from 89 otters and now grows at a finite rate of 19.6% per year. Restoring a Legacy. How sea otters are radically changing the West Coast ecosystem 50 years after their return to B.C. Fri 14 Aug 2020 07.00 EDT Last modified on Thu 15 Oct 2020 09.18 EDT. 1 In 1 playlists. Photo: Lilian Carswell, US Fish and Wildlife Service . He found that about 350 kilometres to the west of Amchitka, off a remote island called Shemya. But the potential is definitely there.” Sea otters are a keystone species. (b) The sea otter on the Pacific Coast. Ultimately, the sea otters will show us if it is possible for them to re-colonize the bay. As southern sea otter population and range expanded in the first half of the 20th century, ... 2020). To oblivion and back. On Vancouver Island alone they’ve gone from near extinction to a population of over 5000. A new study highlights the need to engage Indigenous communities in managing sea otter population recovery to improve coexistence between humans and this challenging predator. New model puts dollar value on ecological transformations driven by otters. Limestone reefs that have been a part of Alaskan kelp forests for centuries have started to disappear. The biggest problem in California is that the southern sea otter population can’t seem to expand its range. Our mission: To restore a healthy population of sea otters to the Oregon coast and, in the process, help make Oregon’s marine ecosystem more robust and resilient.” Subscribe. James Estes, now an emeritus professor at the University of California Santa Cruz, … Now numbering in the thousands, the appetite of the otters is dramatically altering large parts of the West Coast ecosystem. Monitoring efforts have varied in frequency and type across years. These sea otter surveys are conducted cooperatively by scientists of the U.S. Geological Survey, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, U.S. They often rest in coastal kelp forests, draping the kelp over their bodies to keep from drifting away. San Francisco Bay could act as a haven for California’s threatened southern sea otters and could potentially triple the existing population, according to a new study led by Sonoma State University. By OB 2020-17. The size of the world’s sea otter population, changing because of warming oceans, may accelerate climate change, according to scientists. 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