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Cal Poly researchers contribute to study on ways to help otter population grow


SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. -- It's no secret that sea otters love the water off the Central Coast. Cal Poly researchers say there's another potential habitat that could help the otter population grow.

Researchers say estuaries could help Southern Sea Otters, which are endangered species.

A new study finds that California could more than triple the otter population of 3,000 to 10,000 by repopulating the San Francisco Bay.

Estuaries may be overlooked in current recovery efforts because the surviving Southern Sea Otter populations in estuaries are so small.

“Sea otters are widely associated with kelp forests in the minds of both the scientific community and the general public,” said Lisa Needles, a Cal Poly biology professor and member of the research team. “However, over the last two decades, we’ve seen the resurgence of sea otters in two estuaries: Morro Bay and Elkhorn Slough. This led us to realize that not only did they occur in estuaries in large numbers in the past, but they’re also integral to the ecosystem health of estuaries, just as they are in kelp forests.”

The otter was believed to be extinct because of fur trade of the 18th and 19th centuries.

Article Topic Follows: San Luis Obispo County

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Bryce Hanamoto

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