This dataset represents an archived record of annual California sea otter surveys from 1985-2014. Survey procedures involve counting animals during the "spring survey" -- generally beginning in late April or early May and usually ending in late May early June but may extend into early July, depending on weather conditions. Annual surveys are organized by survey year and within each year, three shapefiles are included: census summary of southern sea otter, extra limit counts of southern sea otter, and range extent of southern sea otter. The surveys, conducted cooperatively by scientists of the U.S. Geological Survey, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Monterey Bay Aquarium with the help of experienced volunteers, cover about 375 miles of California coast, from Half Moon Bay south to Santa Barbara. The information gathered may be used by federal and state wildlife agencies in making decisions about the management of this threatened marine mammal. These data, in conjunction with findings from several more in-depth studies, may also provide the necessary information to assess female reproductive rates and changes in reproductive success of the California sea otter population through time.
For more information on annual California sea otter surveys, including most current surveys and associated data and corresponding USGS Data Series reports, go to: https://www.sciencebase.gov/catalog/item/5601b6dae4b03bc34f5445ec
The GIS shapefile "Census summary of southern sea otter" provides a standardized tool for examining spatial patterns in abundance and demographic trends of the southern sea otter (Enhydra lutris nereis), based on data collected during the spring range-wide census. This census has been undertaken each year using consistent methodology involving both ground-based and aerial-based counts. This range-wide census provides the primary basis for gauging population trends by State and Federal management agencies. This shapefile includes a series of summary statistics derived from the raw census data, including sea otter density (otters per square km of habitat), linear density (otters per km of coastline), relative pup abundance (ratio of pups to independent animals) and 5-year population trend (calculated as exponential rate of change). All statistics are calculated and plotted for small sections of habitat in order to illustrate local variation in these statistics across the entire mainland distribution of sea otters in California. Sea otter habitat is considered to extend offshore from the mean low tide line and out to the 60m isobath: this depth range includes over 99 percent of sea otter feeding dives, based on dive-depth data from radio tagged sea otters (Tinker et al. 2006, 2007). Sea otter distribution in California (the mainland range) is considered to comprise this band of potential habitat stretching along the coast of California, and bounded to the north and south by range limits defined as "the points farthest from the range center at which 5 or more otters are counted within a 10km contiguous stretch of coastline (as measured along the 10m bathymetric contour) during the two most recent spring censuses, or at which these same criteria were met in the previous year". The polygon corresponding to the range definition was then sub-divided into onshore/offshore strips roughly 500 meters in width. The boundaries between these strips correspond to ATOS (As-The-Otter-Swims) points, which are arbitrary locations established approximately every 500 meters along a smoothed 5 fathom bathymetric contour (line) offshore of the State of California.
The GIS shapefile "Extra limit counts of southern sea otters" is a point layer representing the locations of sea otter sightings that fall outside the officially recognized range of the southern sea otter in mainland California. These data were collected during the spring range-wide census. Sea otter distribution in California (the mainland range) is considered to comprise a band of potential habitat stretching along the coast of California, and bounded to the north and south by range limits as defined above. However, a few individual sea otters (almost always males) can frequently be found outside this officially recognized range, and these "extra-limital" animals are also counted during the census.
The GIS shapefile "Range extent of southern sea otters" is a simple polyline representing the geographic distribution of the southern sea otter in mainland California, based on data collected during the spring range-wide census.
The spring 2011 survey was incomplete due to weather conditions and there were no "extra-limital" sightings of otters during the spring 1992 survey, hence no data or shapefile for "Extra limit counts 1992."
For ease of access, an additional CSV file of the census summary from 1985-2014 is provided: "AnnualCaliforniaSeaOtter_Census_summary_1985_2014.csv"
Tinker, M. T., Doak, D. F., Estes, J. A., Hatfield, B. B., Staedler, M. M. and Bodkin, J. L. (2006), INCORPORATING DIVERSE DATA AND REALISTIC COMPLEXITY INTO DEMOGRAPHIC ESTIMATION PROCEDURES FOR SEA OTTERS. Ecological Applications, 16: 2293-2312, https://doi.org/10.1890/1051-0761(2006)016[2293:IDDARC]2.0.CO;2
Tinker, M. T. , D. P. Costa , J. A. Estes , and N. Wieringa . 2007. Individual dietary specialization and dive behaviour in the California sea otter: using archival time-depth data to detect alternative foraging strategies. Deep Sea Research II 54: 330-342, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dsr2.2006.11.012
|Title||Annual California Sea Otter Census-1985-2014 Spring Census Summary|
|Authors||M. Tim Tinker, Brian B Hatfield|
|Product Type||Data Release|
|Record Source||USGS Digital Object Identifier Catalog|
|USGS Organization||Western Ecological Research Center|