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Yampah Island Project

May 17, 2011

Recently an article was published in the Santa Cruz Sentinel about sea otter activity in the Parson’s Slough, which relates closely to one of FSO’s most recent projects.  Read below to learn further about our Yampah Island Project and to see an example of waht you can find in our up coming Spring 2011 newsletter!

In the spring 2010 edition of The Raft, we published  “Unknown Otters of Parson’s Slough.” In this article Ron Eby of the Elkhorn Slough Reserve described that among the mud flats and tidal creeks of Parson’s Slough, an area about a mile upstream in the Elkhorn Slough complex near Moss Landing, up to 20 sea otters can commonly be seen resting and foraging. Eby has also noted an unusual behavior. Some sea otters appear to be spending more time on land than is typical. FSO is most interested in this behavior, which has been thought rare for Southern Sea Otters. In October 2010 FSO entered into an agreement with the Elkhorn Slough Reserve to establish a monitoring station on Yampah Island. This region, near Parson’s Slough, will be the site of a wireless camera system that will broadcast a live feed to the Reserve’s visitor center. The live feed will also be available to sea otter researchers and FSO members.

One of our goals for this camera is to reduce the need for volunteers to observe otters on site. Video, pictures, and data captured by the monitoring station will allow sea otter researchers to better understand the behavior of our favorite critter without the potential for human disturbance. It will also provide FSO members and Elkhorn Slough visitors the chance to see exactly what the researchers are watching.

Last month, in the Yampah Island area, a Elkhorn Slough Reserve volunteer witnessed the birth of a sea otter pup.

Ron Eby, FSO’s liaison for the Yampah Island Project, reported: “This event has very seldom been observed in the wild.  The mother was hauled out on the pickleweed, then entered the water to give birth.  After giving birth she rested on her back on the mud bank while grooming her pup for the next hour or so.”

“Pictures were taken from over 100 meters away, but if the camera had been installed we might have been able to get some quality pictures and video from close range,” Eby said.

Ron Eby will install the FSO camera sometime in late spring.

To learn more about the Yampah Island project, or to become an official steward of the Yampah Island Monitoring Station, contact info@seaotters.org or visit our website at www.seaotters.org/yampah.html

A female and pup are pictured on the left. With the Yampah Island Monitoring Station FSO hopes to observe sea otters at a much closer range and do so without disturbing them. Picture by Robert Scoles.

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