Discovery Park Seattle Caspian terns/WDFW Nisqually sea otter new s release

Li, Kevin Kevin.Li at METROKC.GOV
Fri Jun 22 15:53:02 PDT 2001

While scoping out the tide flat at Discovery Park at 2:30 today, I saw a
flock of about 90 Caspian terns on a sand flat at the far south end of
Discovery Park. I approached to within about 200 feet, and carefully checked
for bands; none were evident, and I got good looks at nearly all the terns.
While I suspect that this flock may be associated with the recent tern
activity seen at Pier 90 and Myrtle Edwards Park, I can't say for sure. This
is the largest flock I've seen this year.

Yesterday 2 pairs of purple martins were at the Shilshole Bay nestboxes and
gourds, at 9am and also at noon. I got good looks at them from my ladder as
I cleaned boxes, and none were banded (nearly all the BC nestlings get
banded, as well as many others in the area.)

Yesterday Mike Patterson was inquiring about sea otter populations in WA; I
heard at the Puget Sound Research Conference that numbers were rapidly
increasing, and that incursions in Puget Sound were also more frequent. Just
a couple of weeks ago a sea otter was reported in McAllister Creek by
Nisqually; the report came from WDFW:

June 6, 2001
Contact: Steve Jeffries, (253) 589-7235
Harriet Allen, (360) 902-2694

Wayfaring sea otter captured in McAllister Creek

OLYMPIA - It's rare to see a sea otter in Puget Sound these days and rarer
still to spot one five miles inland.

But then, "McAllister" is clearly no ordinary sea otter.

Responding to a call from the City of Olympia, biologists from the
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and an area research firm
captured the 53-pound marine mammal Monday night five miles up McAllister
Creek in an outlet to McAllister Springs.

"When we first got the call, I was sure we were talking about a river
otter," said Steve Jeffries, a WDFW research scientist who netted McAllister
with the help of John Calambokidis from Cascadia Research. "I've never heard
of a sea otter roaming that far upstream."

Named after his adoptive creek, McAllister was transported Monday night to
the Point Defiance Zoo in Tacoma, where he dined on six rock crabs, 12 squid
and 2 pounds of prawns. Today (Wednesday), having received the results of
McAllister's medical exam, Jeffries plans to tag the wayward sea otter and
release him into Puget Sound.

"Aside from a few scrapes on his back flippers, he appears to be in good
health, said Jeffries, who puts McAllister at 2 or 3 years old. "He's very

That's good news to Harriet Allen, endangered species manager for WDFW,
which lists sea otters as a state endangered species. They are also
protected under the federal Marine Mammals Protection Act.

Having once thrived off the Washington coast, sea otters were wiped out by
the fur trade in the 1800s, Allen explained. They were then reintroduced to
the state in 1969-70 with 59 animals brought south from Amchitka Island,

Today, approximately 600 sea otters live in state waters, mostly along the
Pacific coast from Cape Flattery to Destruction Island, although a few are
spotted every year around Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands.

"We don't see that many sea otters in southern Puget Sound, and to find one
that far upstream is very unusual," Allen said. "This guy must have thought
life would be better as a river otter."

There are actually some significant differences between sea otters and river
otters, starting with the fact that river otters are much more common and
are not listed by the state as a "species of concern." In addition:

Sea otters are generally larger, weighing in at 20 to 90 pounds, compared to
12 to 25 pounds for river otters.
The back feet of a sea otter look like flippers; a river otter's do not.
Sea otters typically feed while floating on their backs; river otters usual
feed on shore.
One field guide also states that river otters live in both freshwater and
ocean habitats while sea otters "live exclusively in the ocean."

"In this case, anyway, McAllister clearly departed from that rule," Allen

Allen asks that anyone who spots a sea otter in Puget Sound call Steve
Jeffries at WDFW (253-589-7235) or John Calambokidis at Cascadia Research
(360) 943-7325.

"We're trying to monitor these animals so we can keep track of how they're
faring," Allen said. "McAllister should be easy to spot: he'll be the one
with red and white tags on his back flippers."

WDFW and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) are also seeking
information on any sea otters found stranded or dead on the Washington
coast. Last year, there were 22 documented cases of sea otters found dead on
the beach, said Allen, noting that the causes of these deaths are unknown.

Anyone who finds a stranded or dead sea otter is asked to call USFWS at
(360) 753-6048, the U.S. Geological Service at (542) 745-7235 or Jeffries at
the number above.
Kevin Li
Ballard, USA
kdli at
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