USGS Western Ecological Research Center

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WERC scientists conduct annual population surveys of the southern sea otter -- a federally listed threatened species. In coordination with the California Department of Fish and Game and other institutions, ongoing surveys and research continues to inform the southern sea otter recovery plan for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and contributes to our understanding of sea otters and nearshore ecosystem health from California to Alaska.


California Sea Otter Stranding Network

Since 1968 there has been an effort to document all sea otter strandings in California. This effort was begun by the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG), but soon became a multi-agency and multi-organization endeavor. The coordination of the sea otter stranding network was transferred to USGS scientists in 1995. In addition to CDFG and USGS, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, US Fish and Wildlife Service, California Academy of Sciences, Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, various city beach clean-up crews and others contribute by reporting and/or retrieving carcasses. (Note: stranded live sea otters in California are reported to and retrieved by the Monterey Bay Aquarium or The Marine Mammal Center and are included in the stranding data set.)

Date, location, sex, age, and state of decomposition is collected on almost all carcasses, while a more detailed necropsy is performed on those in good condition.

  • Number of Sea Otter Strandings, 1983-2010
  • Stranding Location Summaries
  • Age and Sex Composition of Stranded Sea Otters Summaries
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