Sea Otter in Trouble!

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A pregnant otter, panting, struggling, in visible distress.

otters swimming

I had just finished filming humpback whales feeding (which is what Moss Landing is known for) for a story I was working on about the unique whale attacks around Monterey Bay when I stopped to admire some of the local sea otters catching muscles and cracking them open on their chests when Mike Sack, a local whale watching captain with Sanctuary Cruises, was alerted that there was a nearby otter in distress! So we followed the story…

aliya jasmine otters producer

“WE FOUND THE OTTER IN THE PARKING LOT, TEETH RESTING ON THE ASPHALT”

otter

We found the otter in the parking lot, teeth resting on the asphalt; clearly the wild animal was in in pain and distress. Coming so far away from the water is very uncommon behavior for this one-time endangered species.

Being an animal lover, everything in me wanted to go up to the otter and comfort it. But it’s a wild animal – and I don’t know anything about normal otter behavior – so we kept our distance and called SORAC (the nearby otter rescue & rehab facility that tags all the local otters and keeps track of them. This one however, didn’t seem tagged.

“THE OTTERS HAVE COMPLETELY TRANSFORMED THE LOCAL ECO-SYSTEM”

I came to Monterey to do a story about whales – I had no idea how much the otters really changed the local eco-system.brian otters

“THE OTTERS ARE EXCEPTIONAL GARDENERS!”

“The otters are exceptional gardeners!” Captain Brian of Whisper Charters explains as he takes me around the Elkhorn slough in his boat “the otters have completely transformed the local eco-system from what it looked like when I moved here in the 80s. “ According to Brian, the transformation the California sea otters have brought upon the area provides enough biodiversity to support over 100 species of critters in moss landing.

california sea otters

As we made our way through the slough, Captain Brian pointed out all the different birds (Moss Landing is a hot spot for avid bird watchers) and I caught video footage of my first otter pup, I have seen many species of otters over the years in many parts of the pacific ocean, but I had never seen an otter pup in person. A cute bundle of soft fuzzy fur, cradled in the arms of his mother, my heart melted all over the floor Captain Brian’s boat.

aliya jasmine otter pup

 “A CUTE BUNDLE OF SOFT FUZZY FUR, CRADLED IN THE ARMS OF HIS MOTHER, MY HEART MELTED ALL OVER THE FLOOR”

monterey moss landing otters

For locals like Captain Mike and Captain Brian, the marine life in Moss Landing are an integral part of every day life. They care so much about their critter neighbors, they even know some of them by name. It’s a tight nit community, and the animals aren’t excluded from it.

While waiting for the rescue team, SORAC to arrive at the parking lot where we had now been observing the otter for over an hour, she starts pulling herself back towards the water. Over the phone, SORAC instructs us not to let her get out of our sight while they make their way to moss landing. But the otter is clearly attempting to make a getaway. By the time SORAC arrives on the scene, the otter is in the water and far out of reach. The volunteers SORAC has sent to the parking lot inform us they can only legally collect her from land, but since she is now in the water, they aren’t allowed to pluck her out.

sanctuarycruises

Over the next few weeks the Captain Mike Sack from Sanctuary Cruises sees the pregnant otter struggle to pull herself back into this Moss Landing parking lot another two more times, before SORAC finally scoops her up.

otters aliya jasmineAt the time of posting the YouTube video that accompanies this article, I called SORAC to follow up on this sick female otter. The gentleman I talked to knew exactly which otter I was asking about, he told she had been part of their program when she was just a little pup and they tagged her, but the tag must have come off, and she disappeared for 12 years. Oddly, this was sort of her homecoming. After doing tests on her, they determined her inflated belly was not pregnancy, but a common stomach bloat due to a heart condition caused by pollution in the water. A very sad ending for this otter, but truly brought to light a great appreciation for what environmentalists are doing in Moss Landing, and how important these silly little otters are for the eco system in Monterey Bay. If you’re interested in visiting the aquarium that houses SORAC, or want to see the otters and other marine life up close, here is all the information you need:
Sanctuary Cruises (with Captain Mike): https://www.sanctuarycruises.com
Whisper Charters (with Captain Brian): http://www.whispercharters.com
SORAC: http://seaotters.com/research-conserv…

And if you are interested in seeing my Travel Vlog about Monterey Bay, you can watch it here: www.aliyajasmine.com/montereybay-whales/

 

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