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Sea Otters Flourishing

Sea otters can be found throughout Big Sur. You’ll see them swimming in and around the kelp forests. When the sea otters are eating, you’ll see them lying on their back, like the otter on the right who is happily munching an Abalone, a Sea Otters favorite food.

California Coast Sea Otter Photographed by Mike Baird

Photo: Mike Baird

The California, or southern, sea otter survived a close brush with extinction early in this century, but today, under the protection of the Endangered Species Act, it is expanding its range and increasing its numbers. By the 1930’s, most people believed that this subspecies of sea otter had vanished, wiped out by fur traders who coveted its rich pelt. In 1938, however, a small group of otters was discovered living near the mouth of Bixby Creek along California’s Big Sur coast. From those few survivors, the otter has increased its numbers to more than 2,000 today. Growth has been particularly impressive during the past decade, when otter numbers increased by nearly 50%.

Bixby Bridge spans Bixby Creek where the Sea Otters were rediscovered in 1938.The otter’s dramatic recovery is due in no small part to the dedication of EDF Honorary Trustee Margaret W. Owings, long time resident of Big Sur, who founded Friends of the Sea Otter in 1968 to champion the otter’s cause. Over the years, EDF and Friends of the Sea Otter have worked together on many occasions on behalf of the beguiling and imperiled species.

Protected since 1977 as a threatened species, the otter is still vulnerable to oil spills and illegal killing. To increase the chances for survival, some otters were relocated in the late 1980’s to remote San Nicolas Island off the California coast. Although overall results were disappointing, a few otters survived and have reproduced there.

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