How do you care for, tag and study “feisty” sea otters in nearby Elkhorn Slough? Watch our own Dr. Mike Murray at work in this fascinating portrait in the “Santa Cruz Sentinel.” (Dan Coyro/Santa Cruz Sentinel)
Checked out our Otter Spotter station? Learn more in our latest podcast.
We recently released four snowy plovers on area beaches, making a total of 15 this year, and over 100 since 2000.
Does this play have a purpose?
Keeping our sea otters busy is a full time job, and an important one too. Giving the otters fun toys and teaching them new behaviors, like walking onto a scale or holding a target with their paws, helps keep them healthy and happy.
Got plans for the big coastal cleanup this weekend? We’re proud to be hosting cleanups with our Teen Conservation leaders at Casa Verde beach, and with our Watsonville Area Teens Conserving Habitats (WATCH) staff at Palm Beach & Pajaro Valley High School / Watsonville Wetlands trails.
Good News For Sea Otters!
California’s sea otter population is a bit larger this year – good news for a threatened species that plays such a vital role in the health of coastal ecosystems.
Our sea otter research team joined university colleagues, and state and federal wildlife officials, in a spring otter count that tallied 2,941 animals from San Mateo County to the Santa Barbara/Ventura county line to the south.
The 2013 figure includes a record number of pups, which helped boost the three-year population average from the 2,792 average just a year ago. That is cause for “cautious optimism,” according to Tim Tinker, a sea otter biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey’s Western Ecological Research Center.
“Certainly, sea otters have made an impressive recovery in California since their rediscovery here in the 1930s,” Tinker says. “But as their numbers expand along California’s coast, they are facing ‘growing pains’ in different locales.”
Those “growing pains” include everything from disease and parasites, to limits on available food, to a rise in the number of sea otters falling victim to shark bites.
For 30 years, the Aquarium’s sea otter research team has been a key player in collaborative efforts to understand why sea otters are recovering so slowly.
They’ve come a long way.
Presumed extinct in California after the fur trade years, a remnant population of some 50 animals was rediscovered in the 1930s with the opening of Highway 1 along the remote Big Sur coast.
In addition to being a magnet for Central Coast visitors, sea otters are considered a keystone species in coastal ecosystems because they prey on invertebrates that, if left unchecked, can decimate kelp and seagrass beds and the vital fish habitat they provide.
Scientists also study sea otters as an indicator of nearshore ecosystem health, since sea otters feed and live near the coast and often are the first predators exposed to pollutants and pathogens that wash into the ocean from land.
Sea otter photo credit: ©Jim Capwell / Divecentral.com
These (eight) arms are for hugging! We’d love to know: how would you handle an octopus embrace?
Who is that masked man, and why is he dressed like that?
Answer: Our otter care staff wear disguises to prevent young otters from bonding with their caregivers, facilitating their eventual release to the wild.
Remember the girl whose playful dance with a puffin made international headlines last week? On Sunday, we invited her back for a unique opportunity to feed the puffins. Looks like they were glad to see her again, don’t you think?
Miss Our Seahorse Exhibit? We’ve Got You Covered!
In early September, we closed our “Secret Lives of Seahorses” special exhibition to make way for “Tentacles,” our next amazing exhibit focusing on octopuses, cuttlefishes and their kin. (It opens April 12, 2014.) Many of you told us how much you loved the seahorses, so we’re glad to report that we just opened a new, permanent exhibit devoted to seahorses in Splash Zone. Here’s just a glimpse of what you’ll see!
You also asked what happened to the hundreds of seahorses in the decommissioned exhibit. We’re glad to report that all of our seahorses either moved into our new exhibit, or found homes at other accredited institutions. All told, we safely shipped 74 boxes of seahorses to new homes.