Sunday, March 23, 2008

99 Sea Otters

One way to spend Easter morning, apparently, is to go on a nature cruise. I didn't know this before, but my family had scheduled it, so I went along. It turned out to be quite lovely.

The destination this morning was Elkhorn Slough, off Monterey Bay. The cruise is run by Elkhorn Slough Safari, which is a little local operation. Captain Yohn Gideon has been running these tours for about a dozen years.

One feature I quite liked is that about a half-dozen of the passengers were given clicker-counters to count sightings of specific critters. So someone was responsible for counting sea otters, another sea lions, another (me!) harbor seals, and others blue herons, snowy egrets, and great egrets. The captain turns over the counts from each to researchers, so I felt like we were doing something useful as well as sightseeing.

And boy, was there wildlife to see today. We saw 99 sea otters (93 on the cruise, and six back in the harbor afterward), about 75 sea lions and 49 harbor seals. I forget the bird counts, except I know we only saw one heron. But I must admit, I was expecting to see maybe a couple of dozen otters, total. Seeing nearly 100 was a great surprise!

Anyway, it was great. Sunny and calm and pleasant, with lots of critters out playing, feeding, etc. Spring is a great time to visit the slough, and I will definitely be back again.


Laura E. Goodin said...

Does the abundance of otters mean their habitat is improving, pollution-wise? (And are 99 sea otters anything like 99 red balloons?)

dragonfly said...

99 otters is impressive, but in a kayak they (espcially the seals) will pop up just a yard or two away, just to say hello or play or munch on a crab or two- and you get to stop and watch. The only down side is you ache a wee bit the next day.

Chard said...

Laura: pollution isn't the issue with these guys so much. Mostly they were hunted to presumed extinction for their wonderful fur. Now it's mostly a matter of making sure they stay healthy enough to replenish the population. Various viruses and such have threatened the population in recent years.

D-fly: I definitely want to do the kayak tour sometime soon. It was fun having a naturalist guide, and we did get remarkably close, but not like you guys did.