[Tweeters] Seat Ottler at Oyhut Game Range-20 April

Andy Stepniewski steppie at nwinfo.net
Thu Apr 23 12:03:09 PDT 2015


While inside the Ocean Shores Sewage Treatment Plant (open on weekdays, greeted by a "Birders Welcome sign in the office), Ellen was scoping the southernmost corner of the Oyhut Game Range and spotted an otter through the chain link fence. As she watched this beast on its back in the very shallow embayment (a minus tide), she exclaimed "I think it's a Sea Otter!" I took a look and thought her call seemed reasonable. Since we have never seen a Sea Otter here, we were excited and wanted a closer view so exited the treatment plant and headed to this corner of the game range. While I kept at a distance, Ellen used the jetty as a hide to break her silhouette and approach the otter for photos which proved a good strategy. While snapping pictures, Ellen could hear the otter crunching the shell of a crab as her photo shows the otter on its back with a crab between its paws on its chest, the classic "cute" pose of this mammal.

I see there is a 2004 WDFW report “Washington State Recovery Plan for the Sea Otter” (Monique M. Lance, Scott A. Richardson and Harriet L. Allen). From the Executive Summary: “Sea otters existed along the Washington coast for thousands of years before they were extirpated by an intensive harvest for their valuable pelts that began in the mid-1700s. >From about 1911 to 1969, sea otters were absent from the state. In 1969 and 1970, 59 sea otters were reintroduced to the Washington coast from Amchitka Island, Alaska. The sea otter was listed as a state endangered species in 1981, due to its small population size, restricted distribution, and vulnerability.

>From 1989 to the most recent survey in 2004, the population has been growing at an average annual rate of 8.2%. From 2000 to 2004, annual survey counts have ranged from 504 to 743 sea otters. The current sea otter range in Washington extends from just south of Destruction Island on the outer coast to Pillar Point in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, with concentrations in the vicinities of Destruction Island, Perkins Reef, Cape Johnson, Sand Point, Cape Alava, and Duk Point. A few individual sea otters have been seen in Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands as well as along the Oregon coast.” This publication suggests future expansion of its range might include Grays Harbor and elsewhere along the coastline.

We wonder if our observation reflects a continued increase and range expansion of Sea Otters in Washington or whether this was a stressed individual, fleeing poor marine conditions (warm water or pollution leading to declining prey base populations) along their usual Olympic Peninsula coastline range.

Insight by the Tweeters community on this question is most welcome!

Andy and Ellen Stepniewski
Wapato WA
steppie at nwinfo.net

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