A sea otter licks a heart-shaped ice (Photo : Reuters)
The number of sea otters along the coast of California has rebounded, but a lot of work has to be done to protect the mammals.
The US Geological Survey (GS) has been assisting in the count of the sea otter population since the 1980s which gives federal and state wildlife agencies the information needed to manage the sea otters and any needed recovery.
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"We're pleased to see a reversal in the negative trend that happened in the last few years," said USGS Western Ecological Research Center's research biologist Tim Tinker, who added that the population increase might have peaked.
The annual count takes place every spring, this year in April from San Mateo County to Ventura. The survey concluded a total of 2,865 sea otters for 2012, increasing the three-year average to 2,792. The 2010 average was 2,711.
The number of sea otters ends the three-year drop compared to 2007 when the number of sea otters reached over 2,800.
The 2011 count was never completed due to weather conditions, according to officials. The 2011 count did not a record 335 sea otters were found dead.
A couple reasons for the drop in the sea otter population are infections and boat strikes, however, this year saw lethal shark bite wounds on some otters, which is something Tinker said they will follow up on the shark bites.
"That is definitely a pattern that has raised a lot of eyebrows and a lot of questions about what is happening in the near-shore habitat," said Tinker. "[Shark attacks were] the largest single source of mortality this year, which is something quite new."
More information on the sea otter study can be found here.