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Miller’s small team of biologists and technicians catalog every dead otter that surfaces on California’s beaches. In 2012, that number jumped about 10 percent, according to Brian Hatfield, a biologist at the U. The team used to slice open every dead animal, but declines in state funding have limited exams, Miller said.
Now, every teenage or adult otter is placed on the metal operating table, no matter how it died.
Between 15,000 and 18,000 otters swam off California’s coast before 18th- and 19th-century fur traders hunted the animals almost to extinction. “That’s fewer otters than kids in a big high school,” despite their listing as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act in 1977, Shimek said.
Stormwater may be driving toxins straight to the ocean.
SANTA CRUZ — The body arrived in a cooler, packed on blue ice.
The sea otter had washed up on Pismo Beach the day before, with shark bites sunk deep into its hips and back legs — and scratches on its bones.
“That’s like having 35 million Americans die,” said Robert Ketley, water quality program manager in Watsonville.
Algal blooms often explode in spring and fall at Watsonville’s Pinto Lake, carpeting the lake with green scum.
Miller’s work has shown that otters are dying from a wide range of things, including unexpected threats that come from land.