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Social organization of sea otters in Prince William Sound, Alaska

January 1, 1984

Sea otters in Prince William Sound. Alaska, were spatially segregated into predominantly (97%) male areas at the front of the expanding population and breeding areas with fewer (up to 33%) males. From 1975 to 1984 we captured and marked 267 otters with tags and (or) radio transmitters and investigated their reproductive strategies, social relationships, and patterns of sexual segregation. Mating occurred year-round, but peaked in September and October. Females first bred at 4 years of age and were capable of pupping annually; they generally separated from their pup before mating. Males established breeding territories that enabled prolonged precopulatory interactions that may have prompted female–pup separation and post-copulatory interactions that precluded females from mating with other males. Male mating success was related to age, weight, territory quality, and the length of time they maintained their territory. After the breeding season, territorial males returned to male areas where food was more abundant. Young, dispersing males also entered male areas and remained there until attaining breeding age. In male areas, otters commonly rested in groups of >50 individuals. Gregariousness promoted social interactions and likely enhanced food finding and (historically) predator protection. As food diminished, males moved into adjacent, unoccupied regions; females then occupied former male areas.

Citation Information

Publication Year 1984
Title Social organization of sea otters in Prince William Sound, Alaska
DOI 10.1139/z84-385
Authors David L. Garshelis, Ancel M. Johnson, Judith A. Garshelis
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Canadian Journal of Zoology
Series Number
Index ID 70194901
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization