Otters in Trinidad Bay, CA

I was thrilled to see otters in Trinidad Bay swimming in a small pack. I thought I saw a family of otters. I have come to learn that they must have been either a female or male pack since this species practices “sexual segregation.” Besides otters being adorable, they help protect the kelp forest. They are a keystone species; without them, the ecosystem will collapse—a genuine threat after otters were overfished in the nineteenth century, skinned for their fur. I can only imagine how many kelp forests would cease to exist if this happened, not to mention the abundant ecosystem in Trinidad Bay. It was an honor to watch these beautiful creatures swimming along the cliff from the Trinidad Pier.

There’s a lot of information about sea otters, so let’s do a little sea otter 101. 2005 in Trinidad Bay, Scott Shannon observed five generations of otters. As I mentioned before, otters are segregated by gender. The females swim in a hierarchy, while the males live communally and share who leads the team. Little Mama was the oldest of the otters Scott Shannon observed. She died at fourteen years old (breaking a record.) Three out of four otter pups don’t survive outside of infancy. Unlike other marine mammals, otters do not have blubber, so they clean their fur to keep insulated. The otters are hunted for their fur, but the pollution from waste and fishing is a leading cause of death.

Trinidad has a protected, giant kelp forest located at Trinidad Head. The kelp forest is home to thousands of species creating a diverse ecosystem for our fishy friends! Otters eat urchins, which eat kelp and quickly dominate coral reefs. With the protection of the otters, kelp forests thrive. Without otters, the ocean’s ecosystem is not balanced. This aquatic paradise in Trinidad is protected from waste and pollution. Extra precautions are met for the safety of the ecosystem and its otters.

These intelligent animals keep a distance from people after being hunted for generations. Yet, it isn’t unheard of for the youngins in Trinidad Bay to take a liking to people watching. Perhaps the cleanest ocean puppy, otters are animals to love and appreciate. Without them, we may not have the life-giving kelp forests that we see in Northern Humboldt today.

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