Surrogate-reared sea otters helped restore threatened population

ScienceDaily | 9/23/2019 | Staff
jenny124124 (Posted by) Level 3
"If otters do great things, and there are places missing otters, and we now have a way to change that, why wouldn't we want to do it? Let's fix this," said Dr. Kyle Van Houtan, chief scientist at Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Monterey Bay Aquarium began placing rescued sea otters in Elkhorn Slough as part of its collaboration with state and federal authorities to restore the threatened southern sea otter population. The species was nearly hunted to extinction in California during the fur trade in the 18th and 19th centuries. The state's population has slowly increased to just over 3,000 sea otters between Santa Cruz and Santa Barbara, but the otters have yet to return to their full historical range from Alaska, down the coast of California to Mexico's Baja California.

Monterey - Bay - Aquarium - Facility - Sea

Monterey Bay Aquarium is the only facility with a sea otter surrogacy program, in which non-releasable females raise rescued pups for return to the wild. The program enabled the aquarium team to conduct this first case study using this method to boost a wild population. The aquarium chose Elkhorn Slough for the study because it contained relatively abundant prey resources, accessible vantage points and waterways to monitor released otters. In addition, the location already supported a small population of male sea otters. Study data were based on the releases of 37 sea otter pups rescued by the Sea Otter Program from 2002-2016. These otters were cared for using the aquarium's resident sea otters as surrogate mothers, and then released as juveniles into Elkhorn Slough.

Key findings of the study include:

Aquarium - Researchers - Sea - Otters - Home

Aquarium researchers say the young sea otters were able to establish their new home in Elkhorn Slough because they were ecologically naïve to the estuary.

"They just hadn't been alive long enough to establish any kind of home range. In many cases, they probably stranded...
(Excerpt) Read more at: ScienceDaily
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