ad info

 custom news
 Headline News brief
 daily almanac
 CNN networks
 CNN programs
 on-air transcripts
 news quiz

CNN Websites
 video on demand
 video archive
 audio on demand
 news email services
 free email accounts
 desktop headlines

 message boards




California sea otters dropping in number

Aquariums like the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific are studying injured and orphaned otters like this one  

August 22, 1999
Web posted at: 10:13 p.m. EDT (0213 GMT)

From Correspondent Mark Bernheimer

LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- Intelligent and playful, the California sea otter is a curiosity to scientists as well as the general public. But the elusive animal is becoming more difficult to find in the wild.

While their cousins in Washington, Alaska and Canada are thriving, the number of California sea otters has declined 12 percent since 1995, with just over 2,000 remaining.

The rapid drop has prompted scientists to scramble for solutions, but they can't fix the problem until they understand exactly what is causing it. All they have so far are possibilities.

"Disease, contaminants, starvation and entanglement or entrapment in coastal fishing gear," offers Carl Benz of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

But the clock is ticking. The remaining otters are tightly concentrated from Santa Barbara to slightly south of San Francisco. One large oil spill could wipe out the entire population.

Searching for answers, institutions such as the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific shelter and study injured and orphaned otters. But the animals aren't always easy subjects to observe.

"We've seen them take nuts off of bolts. We've seen them open doors and walk out doors. We've seen them climb six-foot chain-link fences. These animals are probably ... one of the most challenging to work with in an environment like this," Curator Mark Ryan says.

Animal lovers may worry about the future of the California sea otter, but scientists warn humans could be in jeopardy too.

"We use the coastline as much as the sea otters. And we take fish from the water, we swim in the water, surf in the water. And what's happening to the sea otter could very well be happening to a much larger picture than just the animals themselves," Benz says.

Oil spill lessons offer hope for sea otters
Killer whales put Alaska sea otters at risk
Southern sea otter population in decline
Ship paints may lead to sea otter deaths

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Home Page
California Department of Fish and Game
Year of the Ocean
Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.

Enter keyword(s)   go    help

Back to the top   © 2001 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.