We want to grab your attention right up front and remind you that the Reserve Open House is planned for Saturday, May 9th. The gate will open at ; scientists will be on hand to answer your questions and show you their studies; and the trails will be groomed and ready for wandering feet. Please make your plans now to come for a visit. Call us at 667-2543 if you have questions or if you have time to come over and help with trail work.
Now that we have your attention, have you noticed how Spring is busting out all over?
While the news is all about our failing economy, it looks like Mother Nature’s portfolio is recovering very nicely from last summer’s fires. We saw that display of pink in front of Deetjen’s several weeks ago. But Mother Nature is outdoing herself with the display of gold and blue up above the Coast Gallery and Timber Top. The California Poppies and Lupine are simply gorgeous and uplifting, a product of our gentle winter rains. Up here at Whale Point, the
For several weeks, we’ve been watching an amazing parade of whales also. It seems that they all headed north at the same time. We would like to think we can tell the babies by the smaller spouts, but a pair of binoculars helps as well. And there is another group of folks looking out to sea with their binoculars. They are the Sea Otter scientists, who have been living at Big Creek since last November while conducting their research. They are a consortium of folks from the US Geological Survey, UC Santa Cruz, the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the California Department of Fish and Game. The group is joined by a host of volunteer researchers and interns.
In November, the group captured and tagged more than 30 sea otters along the
Members of the research team monitor the otters from sunrise to sunset, 7 days a week. The longer days of spring are allowing more time to collect data. The team has been delighted to see a few tiny new faces through their spotting scopes in recent weeks. In the past month, at least 6 of the tagged otters have had pups. This brings an exciting new element into the research, as the team gets to watch the pups grow from a helpless ball of fur, to a rambunctious juvenile, and eventually into an adult otter. The team has been able to note the remarkable individuality of each otter. For example, certain otters appear to be excellent mothers, while others appear to be less cut-out for the task. Some otters have favorite prey items for which they devote the majority of their foraging time. Other otters even seem to have their favorite resting locations within a kelp bed.
For the past 10-15 years, elevated mortality, especially in reproductive females, has limited the rate of recovery of the California Sea Otter population and prevented its delisting from “threatened” status. As apex marine predators in near shore habitat, they are considered a “Keystone Species”, meaning the presence or absence of sea otters can have a profound impact on the biodiversity and productivity of kelp forest communities. Furthermore, the proximity of kelp forests (the sea otters principle habitat) to the densely-human populated coastline, combined with the abundance of filter feeding invertebrates in the otters diet, makes the southern sea otter especially susceptible to human-induced stressors in the environment. As such, the sea otter has become an effective sentinel for the health of our coastal ocean.
The Big Sur Sea Otter Research Team is working hard to learn what the otters have to tell us about the health of
Terry Hallock and Feynner Arias