In this regard, some species serve as indicators of trophic relationships and ecosystem state. Contacts: Julie Yee, Brian B Hatfield, Joseph Tomoleoni. oil spill response planning documents and provide interagency reviews as well as testimony at public meetings. those typical of food-limited populations). Although population abundance data are incomplete, there is evidence of increasing, stable and declining sea otter populations in different areas within their range. During most of the early 20th century sea otters were absent from large portions of their habitat in the north Pacific. The population continued increasing until the mid-1990s, at which time the U.S. The factors that ultimately regulate sea otter population abundance are not completely understood, but can include predation, human harvest, food limitation, disease and catastrophic events such as oil spill. 5. Conclusions from investigations regarding physiological and behavioral causes for declining sea otter populations: Variable Results: Reduced fertility : Birth rates of radio-tagged adult females and pup survival at Amchitka Island (1992-94) and Adak Island (1995-96) were similar to those of stable populations. In particular, measures of biological features that experience density-dependent change provide indirect means of determining population status. Levels of PCBs in Aleutian and Californian otters are abnormally high when compared with southeast Alaskan otters. This was true for nearly all species in the Gulf of Alaska and remains an impediment in assessing injury from such catastrophes across most landscapes today. We also provide estimates of carrying capacity (K) for Southeast Alaska, at regional and sub‐regional scales, and analyze growth rates, current population status and expected future trends. Although wild animal populations always rise and fall to some degree, a decline of this size cried out to be explained. Esslinger. 12, Affiliation: U.S. Sea otter numbers have declined in southwestern Alaska over the past 20 years. © 2008-2021 ResearchGate GmbH. Long‐term diet studies can provide a broader picture of sea otter population status in Washington State. We respond to pollution events, such as boat wrecks and oil spills that may threaten sea otters. These new military exercises are designed to test arctic and cold-climate capabilities of the US Navy. Fish and Wildlife Service, Monterey Bay Aquarium and with the help of experienced volunteers. Growth curves demonstrated a significant increase in body mass and body length at age in the 1990s. USFWS/Lisa hupp, Sea Otters and the Endangered Species Act, Skiff Operation Guidance to Avoid Disturbing Sea Otters, Service’s Division of Management Authority, The Southern Southeast Alaska Sea Otter Project, Fish and Wildlife Service, Region 8, sea otter program, U.S. Geological Survey Alaska Biological Science Center, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, sea otter necropsy program, Marine Mammal Research Unit, University of BC, Canada, Wildlife Health Center, University of California, Davis, Fish of the Week! This Shape file includes a series of summary statistics derived from the raw census data, including sea otter density (otters per square km of habitat), linear density (otters per km of coastline), relative pup abundance (ratio of pups to independent animals) and 5-year population trend (calculated as exponential rate of change). Why? Which populations were wiped out, and in what order? Could residual oil from the Exxon Valdez spill create a long-term population ‘‘sink’’ for sea otters... Report number: Endangered Species UPDATE Vol. There is good evidence that the recent declines in sea otters in SW Alaska are related to killer whale predation and the Exxon Valdez oil spill reduced the size of the western Prince William Sound population in 1989. Join us every Monday for this new podcast, Reward Offered for Information Regarding Shooting of Bald Eagle, Proposed Incidental Harassment Authorization Available for Public Review and Comment, Happy 60th Birthday to Two Iconic Refuges, ANILCA at 40: Landmark Legislation for an Alaskan Conservation EthicÂ, USFWS Habitat Restoration Staff Part of Team to Receive National Chief's and Under Secretary's Honors Award for Customer Experience, Fish Camp and Family: Cora Demit shares her Alaska Native heritage with visitors to Tetlin Refuge, Remember the Simple Truths: Sylvia Pitka shares Athabascan wisdom with visitors to Alaska. Establish information management and retrieval systems .....55 5. We used data from 14 TDRs to estimate activity-specific time budgets in sea otters (Enhydra lutris) residing near Cross Sound, southeast Alaska, USA. Protect habitats used by sea otters .....55 4. A summary of research studies about urchin populations and their relationship to kelp and otters; Sea Otter 101, Ocean Today, NOAA. As mammals, sea otters have hair and feed their babies milk. Knowledge of the relationship between population status and the magnitude of the biological feature is necessary. By 2009 our estimate of sea otter abundance in the western Sound was nearly 2,000 animals more than our first post spill estimate in 1993 of about 2,000 individuals. food chains and web's worksheets, coral reef community coloring pages and ocean coral reef coloring page are three main things we want to present to you based on the. 4. Organochlorine pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) including non-ortho PCBs, polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDDs), and polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDFs) were measured in sea otter liver tissue from California, southeast Alaska, and the western Aleutian archipelago collected between 1988 and 1992. Our models resulted in hind-cast (1989-2003) predictions of net population growth and range expansion that closely matched observed patterns. The translocation and subsequent population growth and range expansion of the northern sea otter (Enhydra lutris kenyoni) in Washington State over the last five decades has created a spatio‐temporal gradient in sea otter occupation time and density, and acts as a natural experiment to quantify how sea otter population status and habitat type influence sea otter diet. That is, they live both on land and in the sea. the southern sea otter stock. 38. By employing a spatial design that allows broad geographic inference and selecting species with direct food web linkages, our monitoring program simultaneously detects change and assesses potential mechanisms underlying that change. In addition, the populations of seals and sea lions and underwater ‘forests’ of kelp are disappearing. In Alaska, there are areas that sea otters can expand into. We compile available survey data for Southeast Alaska and fit a Bayesian state‐space model to estimate past trends and current abundance. The southern sea otter (Enhydra lutris nereis) population at San Nicolas Island, California, has been monitored annually since the translocation of 140 sea otters to the island was completed in 1990. Monitor the sea otter population .....52 2. Sea otters have two layers of incredibly dense fur, more than a million fibers per square inch. Fish and Wildlife Service 2003), three-year running averages are used to characterize population trends to dampen the effects of anomalous counts in any given year. The return to pre-spill numbers and mortality patterns suggests a gradual dissipation of lingering oil over at least two decades, to the point where continuing exposure is no longer of biological significance to the WPWS sea otter population. Peak ELS prevalence occurred in late spring, possibly reflecting the population trend toward fall/winter pupping. Our current understanding of the dynamics of the southern sea otter population is largely based on MMS-funded studies conducted during the 1980s (Siniff and Ralls, 1988), at a time when the population was increasing. Behaviors were classified as foraging (diving to the bottom), other diving (traveling, grooming, interacting), and nondiving (assumed resting). Develop public information and education programs .....55 6. Introduction. Monitoring efforts have varied in frequency and type across years. Often data can be collected easily, and they usually reflect current environmental conditions for assessing human-induced changes in the environment. Although this approach involves inherent problems, there also are advantages. • Sea Otter Research o Sea otters are indicators of a healthy ecosystem. We hypothesize that the patchy nature of residual oil left in the environment has created a source-sink population dynamic. There was also an increasing trend from the 1960s/70s through 2004 despite much year-to-year variation. When possible, estimates of historic population levels are used as surrogates for the natural equilibrium population levels. Estimates of acute spill related mortality range from about 1,000 to 5,500 in the first months after the spill. Baculum length increased rapidly at sexual maturity and was a good indication of maturity status (< 14cm = immature). for the entire Southeast Alaska stock is 21,798 sea otters. schools, special events, Tribal and community meetings. Instead, they have an extremely thick coat of fur to keep warm - no animal has thicker fur. With the exception of 13 small remnant populations, sea otters were extirpated from their historic range in the north Pacific Ocean during the 18th and 19th centuries as a result of the commercial harvest for their fur. Elevated mortality is the most likely reason for this depressed population growth rate; however, the cause or causes of elevated mortality remain unclear, The USGS, Alaska Science Center's Nearshore Marine Ecosystem Research program (https://www.usgs.gov/centers/asc/science/nearshore-marine-ecosystem-research?qt-science_center_objects=0#qt-science_ce, The goal of the Gulf Watch Project (https://gulfwatchalaska.org/monitoring/nearshore-ecosystems/) includes monitoring a wide variety of species inhabiting the nearshore system. Implementation of this approach is fraught with practical problems: population levels are difficult and costly to estimate and current carrying capacity is essentially impossible to measure through environmental assessment. nter_objects) includes a long-running research project focused on sea otters. Sea ... and the general public on the predicted impacts of sea otter population growth in southern Southeast Alaska on important shellfish and invertebrate species. Levels for total PCBs in Aleutian otters (310 μg/kg) were 1.7 times higher than levels in California otters (190 μg/kg) and 38 times higher than otters from southeast Alaska (8 μg/kg). 6. We found that TDRs provided data useful for measuring activity time budgets and behavior patterns in a diving mammal over long and continuous time periods. A student studies feeding relationships among sea otter, sea urchins and the abundance of kelp. The historic or natural carrying capacity of disturbed ecosystems can not be directly assessed. Human harvest of sea otters can adversely affect sea otter abundance, evidenced by the commercial fur trade leading to near extirpation. Similar methods could aid in the management of other recovering populations. Currently, the program evaluates six ecological indicators and more than 200 species that range from primary producers to top level consumers and is designed to examine both bottom-up and top-down dynamics. The student measured the kelp abundance at 4 different sites, then spent a day at each site and marked whether otters were present or absent every 5 minutes during daylight hours. Kuluk Bay is on an open coast, so sea otters there are exposed to killer whales. are a salient example of a keystone species exerting top‐down control on ecosystem community structure. One of the factors limiting our ability to clearly understand and document the spill effects was a lack of accurate estimates of sea otter abundance. “The population index has exceeded 3,090 for the first time, and that’s encouraging,” said Lilian Carswell, Southern Sea Otter Recovery Coordinator for USFWS, “but sustained population growth will require range expansion, which means that sea otters will somehow have to get past the shark gauntlets near the ends of the current range. Increased body size and lower age of sexual maturity suggests resources are not limiting growth and maturation of sea otters near Gustavus, Alaska. The USGS spring range-wide sea otter census has been undertaken each year since 1982, using consistent … Why don’t scientists kill sea urchins to help maintain the kelp population? Objectives of our sea otter population assessment studies include: 1) develop and test methods to identify the degree of population structuring among north Pacific sea otter populations, 2) develop and test techniques to accurately and precisely estimate the status of sea otter populations, 3) develop and test methods to identify cause(s) of change in the status and numeric trends of sea otter populations, 4) develop and test methods to determine the role of density dependent processes in affecting change in sea otter populations, and 5) evaluate the effects of population reductions and translocations on sea otter genetic variability. docx Description Reviews (2) Examine the graphs in the Lab Book, and describe any trends you observe among kelp, purple sea urchin, and sea otter populations. The most optimistic interpretation of our results suggests that mortality effects dissipated between 2005 and 2007. nereis) as a case study, we utilized integro-difference equations in combination with a stage-structured projection matrix that incorporated spatial variation in dispersal and demography to make forecasts of population recovery and range recolonization. The canopy forming kelps and eelgrass beds found in the nearshore provide primary production and structure to nursery habitats, and can dissipate wave energy, thus reducing coastal erosion, and serve as a carbon “sink” capable of storing substantial amounts of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Here we fit time-varying population models to data for the sea otter population of western Prince William Sound to quantify the duration and extent of mortality effects from the spill. Why isn’t the sea otter population now growing as fast as it once was … Using demography and movement behavior to predict range expansion of the Southern Sea Otter, Activity Budgets Derived From Time‐Depth Recorders in a Diving Mammal. The … 3. Sea otters pray on sea urchins and urchins eat kelp. Future analyses can improve upon the precision of K estimates by employing more frequent surveys at index sites and incorporating environmental covariates into the process model to generate more accurate, location‐specific estimates of equilibrium density. From the TDRs we constructed a continuous record of behavior for each, Over 20 years ago, the Exxon Valdez oil tanker spilled 42 million L of crude oil into the waters of Prince William Sound, Alaska, USA. Following a review of the history, utility, and potential of indirect methods for population assessment, we suggest that characteristics of populations, and the individuals within, give a better assessment of ecosystem conditions and relationships than can be achieved through direct measurement. At the time of the spill, the sea otter (Enhydra lutris) population inhabiting the spill area suffered substantial acute injuries and loss. The predicted rate of southward range expansion (median = 5.2 km/yr) was sensitive to both dispersal and survival rates; elasticity analysis indicated that changes in adult survival would have the greatest potential effect on the rate of range expansion, while perturbation analysis showed that variation in subadult dispersal contributed most to variance in model predictions. Fluctuations in population density can produce profound changes in ecological constraints, influencing growth and sexual maturity of animals in a population, and can transform the ecology of newly populated ecosystems. This approach requires estimates of: (1) current population level, and (2) carrying capacity of the undisturbed habitat. Habitat characteristics are primary determinants of nearshore marine communities. Studies in Avian Biology 15:119 – 133. oil and gas exploration in Cook Inlet) to make sure development is not in violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act.  We review applications forÂ, We conduct outreach and education about sea otters, their conservation, and the Marine Mammal Protection Act at many different venues i.e. Undertake research that will facilitate and enhance recovery efforts .....57 7. Video shows underwater footage of specially trained divers capturing a Southern Sea Otter. This approach assumes that animals in the population are the best integrated expression of their environment. A Snail’s Odyssey, Tom Carefoot. We review literature on the use of physiological condition, measurements of size and growth rates of body parts, and the components of population dynamics (e.g., reproductive rates, survival, age at maturation) as indicators of the status of populations. US Geological Survey conducts these surveys with teams of scientists’ part of the Western Ecological Research Center. Historically, the sea otter population in our study area had been expanding and sequentially reoccupying vacant habitat since their reintroduction to the area in the 1960s, and our study animals resided in 2 adjacent yet distinct locations. Research based on the diving behavior of sea otters in the intertidal and published oil encounter rates, indicates that all sea otters in those heavily oiled areas were likely to encounter Exxon Valdez oil at least annually and some as often as weekly into at least the early 2000's. Established in 1964, the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species has evolved to become the world’s most comprehensive information source on the global conservation status of animal, fungi and plant species. Since the middle of the 20th century sea otter populations have been recovering previous habitats, due to natural dispersal and translocations. Population. The status of a population is expressed in terms of the population level as a fraction of the mean of natural (undisturbed ecosystem) equilibrium level. They can rub, twist, and pull with a great amount of strength. Growth curves were constructed for each of two main year groups: 1967-71 when the population was at or near carrying capacity and 1992-97 when the population was in steep decline. Sea Otter Coloring Sheet - Northern Sea Otter (PDF) ... and utilizing a variety of methodological and analytical tools to understand the causes of biological and ecological trends in sea otter populations, and to predict the ecological consequences of management practices on these populations and their ecosystems. The nearshore is also an important triple interface between air, land, and sea that provides linkages for transfer of water, nutrients, and species between watersheds and offshore habitats. survey of the sea otter population at San Nicolas Island was completed earlier (April 15–18). The average annual growth rate in southern Southeast Alaska (7.8%) was higher than northern Southeast Alaska (2.7%); however, growth varied at the sub‐regional scale and there was a negative relationship between growth rates and the number of years sea otters were present in an area. Fish and Wildlife Service. During most of the 20th century, through protection and reintroduction, sea otter populations generally increased in abundance and distribution such that most of their range in Alaska, with the exception of southeast Alaska, was occupied by 2000. In wildlife management, various indices of population status have been proposed or used. Subsequent research has resulted in one of the best-studied species responses to an oil spill in history. sea otters in the past, but now consumes thousands of otters. Standard length of mature otters (asymptotic size = 148.2±2.9cm [SE]) was greater than previous studies in Alaska. We also continue to study the role of sea otters in structuring nearshore communities using a time-series of data we have collected in Glacier Bay in Southeast Alaska where the sea otters first appeared in the early 1990's and since have reoccupied the entire Bay with an estimated population of over 5000 animals. Using morphometric measurements and reproductive tracts collected from 40 sea otters by an Alaska Native subsistence hunter, we evaluated growth rates and age at sexual maturity of male sea otters near Gustavus, Alaska. Sea otters are amphibious mammals. However, the sea otter population was designated as "recovered" by 2013 based primarily on demographic data, including (1) a return to estimated pre-spill abundance of sea otters at heavily oiled northern Knight Island, and (2) a return to pre-spill mortality patterns. Additionally, we found that habitat type explained 1.77 times more variance in sea otter diet composition than sea otter cumulative density. 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