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Depleted on Oregon Coast, Live Sea Otter Found | What That Means

Published 04/06/21 at 5:35 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Considered Extinct, Live Sea Otter on Oregon Coast | What That Means

(Manzanita, Oregon) – It was a delightful, rare treat when Seaside Aquarium was called to attend to a live sea otter that had washed ashore on the north Oregon coast. Sea otters have been extinct in Oregon for over 100 years, so there was a glimmer of something hopeful here. However, the tale did not have a happy ending and according to experts the one sighting does not mean a possible shift in the population. (Photos courtesy Tiffany Boothe, Seaside Aquarium)

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On Monday, Seaside Aquarium received a call about a live, stranded sea otter at the very southern end of Manzanita's beach, around the Nehalem Spit.

It was the very first sea otter that the aquarium has responded to, said educator / media representative Tiffany Boothe.

“The otter was lethargic and showing signs of possible neurological issues,” Boothe said. “The sea otter was taken back to the Seaside Aquarium and transferred to a rehab center up in Washington. Unfortunately, the sea otter did not make it. A necropsy will be performed but it is thought that the animal was suffering from a protozoal infection. “

Boothe said sea otters were once quite common off the Oregon coast, but due to intense hunting from the fur trade they were wiped out and pronounced extinct in the early 1900's. River otters are spotted quite frequently along the coast and sometimes mistaken for sea otters.

“Previous efforts to reintroduce sea otters on the Oregon coast have failed but there is a group currently working on a plan to once again reintroduce sea otters to Oregon,” she said. “Sea otters reside in both Alaska, California, and Washington State.”

That group is the Elahka Alliance, which has been working for many years towards this goal. Currently, the closest sea otters colonies are up on the Washington coast's Olympic Peninsula.

What does this single sea otter mean for the work the Elahka Alliance is doing?

Elakha's Director of Science & Policy, John Goodel, said it doesn't mean much.

“Unless there was a lot sea otters a lot closer to Oregon, it's not an avenue for recovery,” Goodell.

Goodell said lone males sometimes explore long distances from the Washington coast.

“But female sea otters won't,” he said. “So they're kind of the natural limiter of sea otter expansion. They have a huge energy demand on them, feeding pups. They can't afford the long trip.”

While larger, main pods of sea otters may not move the males will, Goodell said.

“There's such big gaps now that you have lone sea otters looking for others but they don't find them,” he said. “They never seem to stay in Oregon. If a couple, two three did stay it's not a viable population.”

Sea otters in Oregon began getting hunted for their fur in the late 1700s, but a little over 100 years later most were gone not just in Oregon but around the Pacific Rim. By 1910 they were officially gone. Sea otters were restored for a brief two years in the ‘70s, but for reasons still unknown those populations failed. MORE PHOTOS BELOW

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Below: sea otter at Newport's Oregon Coast Aquarium


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