A recent release from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) shows that 335 sea otters were found dead last year along California’s coasts. This news comes as a blow to sea otter recovery which has seen a decline in the 3-year population average over the last two years.
A trend that is of concern to scientists who monitor sea otter populations is that 2011 saw a large jump in the percentage of sea otters deaths that were caused by shark bites. Most of the bites, despite ultimately proving fatal, were considered exploratory in nature as the sharks were looking for their preferred food of sea lion or seal but scientists are still unsure as to why there was such a large increase in these attacks. Of more concern to scientists was the rise in the number of female sea otters that were killed since female deaths will have a greater impact on the population growth.
While sea otter deaths caused by shark bites occur every year it has been shown to be increasing over the decades. In the 1980’s and ’90’s sharks were responsible for around 8% of sea otter mortalities. By the late 1990’s that number had risen to 15% but in 2010 and 2011 that number has jumped to 30%.
Californian’s can continue to help sea otter recovery efforts during the tax season by donating to the California Sea Otter Tax Fund located on the state tax forms.