I saw this otter on my way home from Morro Bay last week. He was foraging and grooming around the public pier at Moss Landing. The otter was awfully far away for my lens, so these shots are heavily cropped, not too crisp. But they capture the moment. He (or she) had repeated success diving for the huge mollusks pictured below.
I rarely get close enough to sea otters to get clear, sharp captures. They were once widespread throughout San Francisco Bay but were wiped out by fur hunters in the 18th and 19th centuries. We don’t see them here anymore. You have to drive southward to Moss Landing, Monterey and Morro Bay to catch glimpses of these extraordinary marine mammals — members of the weasel family, in fact.
It’s hard not to be enamored with these guys when you do encounter them. Their eating behavior alone is awesome to watch — cracking thick shells with their jaws and using their chest fur as a dining room table. I’ve seen lone otters in Monterey Bay and Pacific Grove, and off the shores of Point Lobos State Reserve just south of Carmel. If you’re lucky, you’ll come upon a raft of them floating en masse. The best view is generally by kayak or canoe.
For more information on great local people helping our resident sea otter populations and individuals, check out The Otter Project. Their mission, as stated on their website:
The Otter Project exists to promote the rapid recovery of the California sea otter, an indicator of near shore ocean health, by facilitating research and communicating research results to the general public and policy makers.
Stop by their website and their blog Sea Otter Scoop if you’re interested in helping with sea otter protection. After what we humans have inflicted on sea otters over the centuries, they deserve a hand whenever we can extend it.
Edited to add: Heather Cauldwell of The Otter Project was nice enough to stop by and offer this information on distinguishing male sea otters from female (you can see her note in the comments section):
The one in the pic looks to be a male. Normally females have scarred up or bleeding noses from mating. This otter’s nose looks to be in pretty good shape.