Tag Archives: sea otters

Elkhorn Slough OtterCam Goes High Definition

The Elkhorn Slough OtterCam has been upgraded from standard to high-definition, and there is now a second HD video camera focused on sea otters, thanks to the generous support of the Acacia Foundation and the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). Now anyone can watch California’s adorable sea otters in HD by going to www.elkhornslough.org/ottercam.

Located in areas of the Elkhorn Slough Reserve’s salt marshes where sea otters often congregate, the two new cameras offer great image clarity and fine detail for viewing this iconic Monterey Bay marine mammal and a teeming cast of other Elkhorn Slough wildlife. Elkhorn Slough Ecological Reserve is managed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW).

The Elkhorn Slough OtterCam HD video streams will be featured as part of the PBS/BBC Big Blue Live television and online event, Aug. 31 through Sept. 2 (at www.pbs.org/big-blue-live/live-cams/elkhorn-slough-otter-cam). Anchored from the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the three-day, live televised event will highlight the amazing marine life that converges off California’s central coast. The Big Blue Live website links to live cameras, including the Elkhorn Slough OtterCam.

Elkhorn Slough is home to the largest concentration of endangered southern sea otters (enhydra lutris nereis) on the California coast, and the first webcam dedicated to streaming live video of wild southern sea otters in their natural habitat. The Elkhorn Slough OtterCam has been streaming live video online from the tidal salt marshes of the Elkhorn Slough Reserve since 2012. The upgrade to high-definition enhances the OtterCam for both researchers and visitors.

For almost two years, researchers have used the Elkhorn Slough OtterCam to observe sea otter behavior such as foraging, grooming and raising pups. Stationed on the edge of the slough, the camera looks across pickleweed marsh and tidal channels of the slough. These channels are frequented largely by female otters and appear to be used as a nursery, as sea otters with pups are regularly seen in the meandering channels. During the past three years, the camera has provided video and still photographs documenting the growth of otter pups, interactions with harbor seals and other wildlife, and the movement of otters throughout the slough.

“The OtterCam has opened a unique window on the lives of sea otters. There are times we are seeing 25 or more otters in the protected channels of the slough’s marsh,” Elkhorn Slough Foundation (ESF) Executive Director Mark Silberstein said. “This suggests there may be more otters residing in the slough than previously thought. We’ve witnessed some unique behaviors, such as hauling out of the water, resting and grooming in the pickleweed marshes.”

Research is underway to better understand how sea otters are using the estuary, with the hope of helping southern sea otters recover in other parts of their historic range. In turn, recent evidence suggests that sea otters may yield important ecological benefits to the estuaries they inhabit. A study published by reserve researcher Brent Hughes in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences revealed that sea otters enhance the health of subtidal seagrass beds, as they do in kelp forests.

“We are pleased to present these remarkable images from the Elkhorn Slough Reserve, and shine a light on sea otter use of the estuary,” Reserve Manager Dave Feliz said. “The behavior of these animals in a salt marsh is little understood, yet the story is unfolding before the eyes of the world on ElkhornSlough.org. CDFW is happy to be a part of this new chapter in sea otter life history.”

Elkhorn Slough, in the central Monterey Bay area, encompasses a wide variety of habitats – oak woodlands, maritime chaparral, coastal prairie and the largest tract of tidal salt marsh in California south of San Francisco Bay – that support an incredible abundance and diversity of life. Elkhorn Slough hosts 550 species of marine invertebrates and 100 species of fish, as well as resident sea lions, harbor seals and the highest concentration of southern sea otters on the West Coast. On the Pacific flyway, Elkhorn Slough bird numbers can soar during migration seasons, nearly doubling the resident bird counts. The slough is designated a Globally Important Bird area, with more than 340 species identified in and around the slough.

ESF is a community-supported non-profit land trust whose mission is to conserve and restore the Elkhorn Slough and its watershed. ESF protects 4,000 acres of rare habitat including oak woodlands, maritime chaparral and wetlands. Since 1982, ESF has been the non-profit partner of the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve (ESNERR).

ESNERR is managed by CDFW with administrative assistance from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. ESNERR is one of 28 reserves established nationwide to support long-term research, water-quality monitoring, environmental education and coastal stewardship.

For information about ESF and ESNERR, and to support the conservation of Elkhorn Slough, please visit ElkhornSlough.org and CDFW Elkhorn Slough.

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Media Contacts:
Dave Feliz, CDFW Elkhorn Slough Reserve, (831) 728-2822
Scott Nichols, Elkhorn Slough Foundation, (831) 728-5939
Dana Michaels, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-2420

You Can Help Something Wild When You File!

There’s still time to help endangered species on your California income tax return, if you haven’t yet filed it. Near the end of Form 540 there is a section called Voluntary Contributions where you can donate one dollar or more to the Rare and Endangered Species Fund (line 403) and/or the California Sea Otter Fund (line 410). If you itemize deductions, the amount you donate this year will be tax-deductible next year.

With more than 200 species of plants and 80 species of California’s animals listed as rare, threatened or endangered, a great deal of work is needed to recover them. Donations on Line 403 help pay for essential California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) research and recovery efforts for these plants and animals, and critical efforts to restore and conserve their habitat.

Tiburon mariposa lily, California tiger salamander, giant garter snake, yellow-billed cuckoo and island fox are among the species CDFW is currently working on to ensure they survive well into the future.

California’s southern sea otter population remains below 3,000, so Enhydra lutris is still a fully protected species under state law and listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act. Donations to the California Sea Otter Fund on line 410 support research by CDFW scientists, who are currently studying 15 years of sea otter mortality information and recently discovered viruses not previously known in this species. These studies should help us better understand the causes of mortality and contribute to population recovery efforts.

If someone else prepares your state tax return, please let him or her know you want to donate to the California Sea Otter Fund on line 410 or the Rare and Endangered Species Protection Program on line 403. If you use Turbo Tax, when you’re near the end of your tax return it should ask if you want to make a voluntary contribution to a special fund. Click “Yes” and go to lines 403 and 410.

CDFW scientists work with their counterparts in other government agencies, nonprofit organizations and the private sector to achieve important recovery milestones to conserve vulnerable species, thanks to California taxpayers like you. More information about how CDFW uses funds in the Rare and Endangered Species Protection and Sea Otter programs is available at www.wildlife.ca.gov/Tax-Donation and www.facebook.com/SeaOtterFundCDFW.

Media Contacts:
Laird Henkel, CDFW Sea Otter Program, (831) 469-1726
Esther Burkett, CDFW Nongame Wildlife Program, (916) 531-1594
Dana Michaels, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-2420

Help Endangered Species With Your Tax Return

Would you like to help protect California’s rare, threatened and endangered species? The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) invites you to do that by making a voluntary contribution to the Rare and Endangered Species Protection Program and/or the

two sea otters floating on their backs, touching forepaws, with caption "Will U Be My Valentine?"
California Sea Otter Fund Valentine. Joe Robertson photo used with permission.

California Sea Otter Fund on your California income tax return. Just enter the dollar amount you wish to donate on lines 403 and/or 410 of your tax return (form 540). If you itemize deductions, you can deduct the amount you donate on next year’s return.

“Donations to these funds have helped CDFW study species that are in trouble, determine what they need to thrive and develop ways to improve their health and populations,” said CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham. “Californians continue to show they understand and care about threatened and endangered species, and the need to protect their habitat.”

One of CDFW’s tax donation funds facilitates recovery of the southern sea otter, which is listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act and as a Fully Protected Species under state law. A 2014 survey indicated there are fewer than 3,000 sea otters in California waters – a fraction of their historic numbers. This small population is vulnerable to oil spills, environmental pollution, predation by white sharks and other threats.

Donations to the California Sea Otter Fund support research by CDFW scientists, who are currently studying 15 years of sea otter mortality information and recently discovered viruses not previously known in sea otters. These studies should provide a better understanding of mortality causes and contribute to population recovery efforts.

Donations to the Rare and Endangered Species Protection Program support numerous conservation projects for California’s rare, threatened and endangered species, including:

a dark gray salamander on wet dirt
Santa Cruz Long-Toed Salamander. David Laabs photo.
  • Santa Cruz long-toed salamander: Known to exist in only a few locations in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties. CDFW works with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Santa Cruz County Resource Conservation District to create and enhance habitat for this species on preserves that have been set aside for its conservation.

    Small island fox pup held in gloved hands
    Island fox pup. Deana Clifford photo
  • Island fox: Small foxes that live on the Channel Islands off of Southern California. CDFW has worked with public and private partners to increase the number of foxes on all of the islands from a few hundred to more than 5,800 foxes.
  • Yellow-billed cuckoo: Rare and secretive birds that have declined markedly with the destruction of riparian habitat in California. CDFW is working with multiple partners to survey and monitor them and to implement recovery actions.

    Brown and orange giant garter snake
    Female orange giant garter snake. Eric Hansen photo
  • Giant garter snake: A highly aquatic snake whose marsh habitat in the Central Valley has likely been further reduced in some areas by drought. CDFW has been working with the multiple partners to ensure water is delivered to important areas for the species’ survival.

    Tan and brown giant garter snake
    Female, standard brown giant garter snake. Eric Hansen photo
  • California tiger salamander: The vernal pools that this species typically breeds in have also likely been impacted by the drought in some areas. CDFW is working with multiple partners to coordinate studies of these colorful salamanders and to protect their habitat.

    a dark gray salamander on wet dirt
    Santa Cruz Long-Toed Salamander. David Laabs photo.

CDFW biologists have been able to achieve important recovery milestones to conserve vulnerable species, thanks to California taxpayers like you. More information about how CDFW uses funds in the Rare and Endangered Species Protection and Sea Otter programs is available at www.wildlife.ca.gov/Tax-Donation and www.facebook.com/SeaOtterFundCDFW.

If someone else prepares your state tax return, please let him or her know you want to donate to the California Sea Otter Fund on line 410 or the Rare and Endangered Species Protection Program on line 403. If you use Turbo Tax, when you’re near the end of your tax return it should ask if you want to make a voluntary contribution to a special fund. Click “Yes” and go to lines 403 and 410.

The state has listed more than 200 species of plants and 80 species of animals as rare, threatened or endangered. Money raised through the tax donation program helps pay for essential CDFW research and recovery efforts for these plants and animals, and critical efforts to restore and conserve their habitat.

Media Contacts:
Laird Henkel, Sea Otter Program, (831) 469-1726
Esther Burkett, CDFW Nongame Wildlife Program, (916) 531-1594
Dana Michaels, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-2420

Help Save Endangered Species at Tax Time!

Media Contacts:
Esther Burkett, CDFW Wildlife Branch, (916) 445-3764
Melissa Miller, Marine Wildlife Veterinary Care and Research Center, (831) 469-1746
Dana Michaels, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-2420

large black and brown raptor flying overhead
California Condor in flight over the Big Sur Coast. Carrie Battistone/DFG photo

Tiburon Mariposa lily (calichortus tiburonensis). Sam Abercrombie photo
Tiburon Mariposa lily (calichortus tiburonensis). Sam Abercrombie photo
Red fox standing in snow near tree
Sierra Nevada red fox, in Sonora Pass area of Mono County. CDFW photo
Sea otter floaring on its back in bay water
California (southern) sea otter in Monterey Bay. CDFW photo
Orange and yellow globe-like flower
Pitkin marsh lily, (lilium pardalinum), a state-listed endangered species. Roxanne Bittman/DFG photo
gray freshwater fish with salmon-colored sides and gills in clear stream
Rare Paiute cutthroat trout in a remote Alpine County stream. CDFW photo.
Two yellow-legged frogs on creek bank
Mountain Yellow-legged frogs (Rana sierrae) in the eastern Sierra Nevada. CDFW photo
Gray owl on tree branch
A great gray owl in Sierra National Forest near Oakhurst. Chris Stermer/CDFW photo

Lizard with leopard-like markings on a rock
Endangered blunt-nosed leopard lizard (Gambelia silus).

California’s wild animals and plants need your help, and there’s an easy way to do it! Just make a voluntary contribution on line 403 and/or line 410 of your state income tax return (Form 540). By contributing any amount over one dollar you can support the Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Rare and Endangered Species Preservation Fund and/or the California Sea Otter Fund. What you donate this year is tax deductible on next year’s return. Californians can receive state income tax credit from the Franchise Tax Board for helping wildlife.

“The voluntary contributions Californians make at tax time are incredibly helpful in our efforts to save threatened and endangered species,” said CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham. “These funds have provided critical support for many state-listed species, including the Tiburon mariposa lily, Owens pupfish, blunt-nosed leopard lizard, mountain yellow-legged frog, great gray owl, Sierra Nevada red fox and many more. These donations help protect California’s exceptional biodiversity.”

There are 387 listed plant and animal species in the state, from little “bugs” that most of us have never heard of, to the iconic California sea otter. Money raised through the tax check-off program helps pay for essential CDFW research and recovery efforts, and critical updates on the status of state-listed species to help assure their conservation.

California is one of 41 states that allows taxpayers to make voluntary, tax-deductible contributions to worthwhile causes on their state returns. Since 1983, the tax check-off fund for Rare and Endangered Species has raised more than $18 million and supported numerous projects, including surveys for the endangered Sierra Nevada red fox. Support from California taxpayers has enabled wildlife biologists to achieve important recovery milestones to conserve vulnerable species.

More information on the Rare and Endangered Species Preservation tax check-off program is available at http://www.dfg.ca.gov/taxcheck.

A second tax check-off fund was created in 2006 specifically to facilitate recovery of the California sea otter, which is listed as a Fully Protected Species under the state law and threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act. According to the most recently completed survey, there are fewer than 3,000 sea otters in California waters. This small population is vulnerable to oil spills, environmental pollution, predation by white sharks and other threats. Many sea otter deaths have been linked to pollution flowing from land to the sea, including fecal parasites, bacterial toxins, road and agricultural run-off, and chemicals linked to coastal land use.

According to CDFW Wildlife Veterinarian and lead sea otter pathologist Melissa Miller, the California Sea Otter Fund provides essential funding to help state scientists better understand and trace the causes of sea otter mortality, identify factors limiting population growth and collaborate with other organizations to prevent the pollution of California’s nearshore marine ecosystem. This fund consists entirely of voluntary contributions from taxpayers of the state of California. The California Sea Otter Fund has become especially vital during the current economic downturn, because other sources of support for sea otter conservation and research have decreased or disappeared entirely. There are no other dedicated state funding sources available to continue this important work.

You can support this research by making a contribution on line 410 of your state tax form 540, the California Sea Otter Fund. CDFW works with the California Coastal Conservancy, Friends of the Sea Otter, Defenders of Wildlife and others to promote the Sea Otter Fund. Visit the website at http://www.dfg.ca.gov/taxcheck and our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/SeaOtterFundCDFW.

Sea Otter Awareness Week is Sept. 23-29

Sept. 20, 2012
Media Contacts:

Michael Harris, DFG-OSPR Scientific Branch, (805) 772-1135
Colleen Young, DFG-OSPR Scientific Branch, (831) 469-1740
Mary Fricke, DFG-OSPR Public Affairs, 916-327-9948

Celebrate Sea Otter Awareness Week with the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG)! The last full week of each September numerous organizations work to educate, inform and entertain the public with sea otter-related activities.

This year DFG is celebrating the birth of a pup to “Olive” (the once-oiled otter). This is a milestone in oiled wildlife rehabilitation because it is believed to be the first time a previously oiled sea otter in California has given birth to a pup. About half of all pups don’t make it to weaning, so scientists won’t call it a true success until this pup is a weaned, healthy thriving sea otter. DFG staff have been monitoring Olive ever since she was rescued, cleaned, rehabilitated and released in spring 2009 and will continue to do so from a safe distance, without disturbing mother and pup. DFG’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR) has created a Facebook page to follow her progress (http://www.facebook.com/OlivetheOiledOtter).

Specific upcoming events related to Sea Otter Awareness Week include the following:

  • Wildlife Veterinarian Melissa Miller will make a Sea Otter Awareness Week presentation at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monday, Sept. 24 at 7 p.m. Dr. Miller will explain how DFG scientists use “CSI” procedures to identify the diseases, parasites and environmental problems affecting sea otters in California’s waters.
  • DFG Biologist Colleen Young will demonstrate the equipment she uses to track sea otters in Capitola from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 25 and 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 27. Meet her at the picnic tables at “The Hook” (the corner of East Cliff Dr. and 41st Ave.).
  • On Sept. 27, two otter lectures will be held at the Seymour Center at Long Marine Lab in Santa Cruz. Stori Oates, who works for DFG and the UC Davis Wildlife Health Center, will present The Land-Sea Connection: What Southern Sea Otters Can Tell Us About Coastal Health. Lectures begin at 7 p.m.

Other events celebrating the Central Coast’s most famous marine residents include free public lectures at the Seymour Marine Discovery Center at Long Marine Lab in Santa Cruz (http://seymourcenter.ucsc.edu/), a kayak tour at Elkhorn Slough, and otter-themed activities at the Marine Mammal Center, California Academy of Sciences, Estuary Nature Center in Morro Bay, the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, the Aquarium of the Pacific and Sea World San Diego. The Friends of the Sea Otter website provides further details and dates at http://www.seaotterweek.org/#!events/cmm9.

Sea Otter Awareness Week serves to remind people to watch out for –­ and keep their distance from ­– sea otters when boating, paddling, or surfing on the Central Coast. Be especially careful in kelp beds, as otters wrap themselves and their pups in kelp on the surface to sleep and keep from drifting away. The Marine Mammal Protection Act requires people on the water to stay far enough from the animals (at least 50 yards) to not cause them to change their behavior. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration provides a handbook for ocean users at http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/outreach/pdfs/wildlife_watching_handbook.pdf.

Sea otters are an indicator species – that is, their health and population reflect the health of our nearshore ecosystem, from kelp forests to fisheries. They once numbered between several hundred thousand and more than a million, worldwide. The fur trade of the 18th and 19th centuries caused sea otter populations to collapse, and by the early 1900s, the California sea otter population was thought extinct. In 1938 a small remnant population of otters was discovered off the Big Sur coast. Protection under the Endangered Species Act and the efforts of many Californians have helped increase that population, but they are far from full recovery. The 2012 spring population survey by DFG-OSPR, the U.S. Geological Survey and Monterey Bay Aquarium produced a population index of 2,792 sea otters in California. This indicates their population  growth is much slower than it should be after years of no growth and decades of slow recovery.

DFG scientists are working to identify the cause of this plateau and find solutions to get the sea otter population growing again. California taxpayers can support DFG’s sea otter program by making voluntary contributions to the California Sea Otter Fund on line 410 of their state income tax returns. More information on this program is posted at http://www.dfg.ca.gov/taxcheck/.

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