Lonely Planet Writer

Adorable sea otters are making a comeback in California’s Morro Bay

While many people can only experience the cuteness of sea otters by watching YouTube videos, visitors in Morro Bay, California have a chance to see the expanding population of the adorable critters as they slowly recover from near-extinction. 

Adult sea otter sleeping in Morro Bay, California.
Adult sea otter sleeping in Morro Bay, California. Image by Michael Mike L. Baird flickr.bairdphotos.com

The California bay has seen an increase in sea otters, hitting its highest count of the animals living in the area. A survey found that the harbour has 36 adult sea otters and nine pups, which is a big increase from the five or fewer otters that frequented the harbor in the early 2000s.

That’s very good news, as sea otters were once close to extinction, and they only number just over 3000 along the California coast. The animals were hunted by fur traders in the 18th and 19th centuries, and according to the World Wildlife Fund, while their populations have rebounded significantly, they are still considered an endangered species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

Otters in Morro Bay, California.
Otters in Morro Bay, California. Image by Discover Morro Bay

Their low numbers in California have certainly made their comeback in Morro Bay an attraction for visitors. “Large gatherings of otters throughout the harbor have attracted tourists and locals all along the waterfront to experience them in their natural habitat,” said Jennifer Little, executive director of Discover Morro Bay in a statement. “You can watch along the shore or rent paddleboards and watch from a safe distance on the water as they forage for food and groom their young. They use rocks and other tools to break open crab and local food sources and are so fun to watch. We’ve seen up to 30 to 40 of them at a time floating around on their backs and enjoying life in Morro Bay.”

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