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A sea otter monitoring station in the Elkhorn Slough.

FSO has partnered with the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve (ESNERR) and Elkhorn Slough Foundation to monitor sea otter activity and create a new way for researchers, members, locals and tourists alike to watch sea otters in their natural habitat.

This partnership will install and operate a remote-controlled video camera on Yampah Island within Elkhorn Slough. Elkhorn Slough is home to over one hundred southern sea otters, making it one of the most densely-populated habitat for southern sea otters in the world. Yampah island is a remote and small marsh island within the slough covered in pickleweed and inhabited by dozens of sea otters. The monitoring station will be installed on a platform above the pickleweed, powered by solar panels and will transmit data wirelessly to the Reserve's education center and online in order to minimize any impact on the habitat and wildlife.

Because the island and sea otters are so remote and only accessible by boat, the camera will provide a unique window into the life of a sea otter in Elkhorn Slough. This footage will be valuable for sea otter researchers and census takers as well as for the thousands of visitors who frequent the Elkhorn Slough Visitor Center and FSO's website.

In 2011, researchers caught a rare glimpse of a sea otter giving birth in the vicinity of Yampah Island, where the monitoring station will be installed. Rare and exciting events like these are inspirational to wildlife-lovers everywhere. With the monitoring station at Yampah Island, FSO and the Elkhorn Slough Reserve will be able to offer footage from a much more powerful camera while abating the disruption a human presence in the environment might have.

See below some sample footage donated to FSO by naturalist Robert Scoles, volunteer for the Reserve, Elkhorn Slough Foundation, as well as the nonprofit research organization Okeanis. Please keep in mind that these clips are using handheld cameras with lower resolution and inferior zoom lenses compared to the camera FSO will be installing as part of the monitoring station.

"The Sliding Otter"
This sea otter is avoiding a dominant male otter by crossing the pickleweed and then sliding on mud flats much like a river otter. FSO's camera monitoring station will be just east of this camera. Footage courtesy of Robert Scoles.
"Mom and Pup"
This footage, shot with a camera through a scope, shows a mom and her pup leisurely relaxing in one of the tidal creeks in Elkhorn Slough. Because food is so abundant in the Slough, resident sea otters have more time for grooming, playing, and resting. Footage courtesy of Robert Scoles.
"Mom the Teacher"
Much like how a cat carries a kitten, mother otter grabs her pup by the neck and dunks the baby into the tidal creek for some much-needed grooming and teaching. Footage courtesy of Robert Scoles.

Contact to learn how you can help sea otters and sea otter researchers at the Elkhorn Slough.

Help FSO and her Elkhorn Slough partners build a window into the lives of the Elkhorn Slough sea otters by supporting the Yampah Island Project. Consider becoming a Yampah Island Steward with a donation. Just enter "Yampah Island Steward" in the "Designation" field on the donation webpage. Click here to get started.

You can also send a check with a note designating your donation for the Yampah Island Project to:
Friends of the Sea Otter
P.O. Box 223260
Carmel, CA 93922

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