LEO Network

Tsawout First Nation Beach, British Columbia, Canada

Andrew Dunning observed:

I was walking on the Tsawout First Nation Beach, just north of Island View Beach Park between 6 and 8 am on 19 May 2018. The weather conditions were overcast with a little fog. I observed two sea mammals just off the rocky point on the north end of this beach. When I saw them initially I was distant to them. I noticed them as the water was very calm. I initially thought they were seals because they were quite large. As I got closer (walking up the beach) I observed one of them roll over onto their back and float. This is when I realized they were not seals but sea otters (Enhydra lutris). I have seen plenty of river otters in my life but I had never seen a sea otter. Only one was on it's back. I don't recall if the feet were sticking up or not. The other kept diving and coming up around the floating one. They both had quite stocky bodies and I noticed the one diving had a shorter tail then a river otter. I watched for a couple more minutes then proceeded with my walk. When I came back a few minutes later they were pretty far out into the Cordova Channel. I was on the phone with my wife when I was walking as she was in Alberta and told her what I was looking at. I really didn't think much of it because I thought these creatures should be there. I continued my walk. I was since told that sea otters are not very commonly sighted in this particular area.

Tom Okey commented:

My children and I found shell-record evidence of recent feeding activity of sea otters (Enhydra lutris) at this very beach on 7 April 2018, as described in this related LEO Observation, and a few weeks later we observed single sea otters at this beach, as described in these LEO Posts from 8 June 2018 and 21 June 2018. Mr. Dunning's observation occurred in the intervening period, and indicates that at least two sea otters visited this coastline in 2018.

Sea otters are endemic to this region, but have been absent from this particular coastline, and from in the Salish Sea, for over a century after being extirpated during the fur trade of the 19th century (see related LEO observations for more information). This broader set of observations represents the first recorded sightings of sea otters in the Haro Strait area of the Strait of Georgia and the Salish Sea, in over a century.


Pair of sea otters (Enhydra lutris) viewed from Monterey Bay Aquarium, California (these are not the otters observed in the present observation).
Photo courtesy of Kathryn Powell, 6 August 2017.

See Also

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Sea otter

Sea otter conservation