the past is a mysterious place...

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Posted by mike on March 02, 2001 at 19:26:09:

In Reply to: Re: They sure are destructive...??? posted by kelphead on March 02, 2001 at 16:08:05:

and i'm not sure that it may have harbored "millions" of sea otters. Historical accounts of such things as fire-frequency in chaparral are difficult enough to verify, let alone numbers of a rare aquatic predator. The current number of Calif. sea otters (2,200?) may be not at all abnormal. This seems like an inherently rare and restricted species (as such high-level predators often are), and given the long term changes that have occurred in our waters (witness the extent of decrease of Kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) forests since 1930), they may not "be ready" for reintroduction into So Cal waters. Of course, all this is speculation, but given the results of the last translocation, most of the otters apparently chose for themselves to leave San Nic. I have a hunch, that when conditions off of So Cal favor otters, they will return of their own volition, and return with a vengeance, just as another controversial species, wolves, have done in Minnesota/Michigan/Wisconsin.

As for otters "starving" themselves, nature is cruel (or perhaps, indifferent is a better word) beyond belief. Many species, predator or otherwise, reqularly experience their own little holocausts with the waxing and waning of the seasons, ENSO events and other vagaries of planetary climate. Most predators regulate their population DENSITY via territoriality (the losers starve or die of their wounds), while their total population may be regulated by food availability. Sea otters and sea lions are cute and fuzzy and so they tug at the heart strings of humans, and objective analysis goes out the window, but "nature" holds little sentimentality and cute cuddly marine mammals are subject to the same difficulties in survival as the uncharismatic invertebrates that lie buried in the sand.

The interesting question also arises; when otters recolonize an area of urchin barrens, will the kelp forests return?

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