Wednesday, 8 July 2015

WW: Ironically good news

(When I was a kid, there were no sea otters on this coast. At all. They'd disappeared completely by the 1920s, relentlessly exterminated to the last individual by trappers. In the 1970s, they came under federal law, and today killing a sea otter, or even possessing so much as a bone, carries a crushing fine and/or ten years in prison. And lo, some days ago I found this on the beach. I'd heard rumours they were out there again. I don't know what killed this one, but it wasn't a trap or a rifle. So as I've often noticed, environmental regulation works. From the bald eagles that have gone from oddity to pest, to oil-free sand, to the now-rarity of dead birds and marine mammals on the tidelands, the beach is visibly better off than it was when I was a boy.)

UPDATE, 9 July 2015: Evidently this is not an isolated incident. Experts don't know why sea otters (and other marine mammals) are washing up on the North Coast in unusual numbers this summer. They first suspected domoic acid, a toxin that builds up in clams this time of year, due to a seasonal algae bloom, but now they seem to have written that off. Nevertheless I've noticed a remarkable number of dead razor clams in the surf of late. And sea otters live on clams. Anyway, the story is here.
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