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Relict Survival of the Sea Otter in Central California and Evidence of Its Recent Redispersal South of Point Conception





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Historically the sea otter abounded around the North Pacific Rim from northern Japan to central Baja California, Mexico. But the population south of Alaska was so heavily hunted in the 18th and 19th centuries for its valuable fur that by very early in the 20th century it generally was assumed to have been extirpated there. In 1938, a remnant population was reported along the nearly inaccessible coast of southern Monterey County, California. Extensive exploration of the reefs from northern Washington to northern Baja California between 1913 and 1926, resulting in sightings only at Bixby Creek, supports the contention that the species persisted nowhere else in that area. The population has since markedly increased in central California, resulting in expansion of the species" range. Twenty four recent records south of Point Conception provide increasing evidence of limited redispersal there.