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Race Rocks Ecological Reserve, British Columbia, Canada

Yukiko Kuwata wrote:

I photographed this sea otter (Enhydra lutris) in Race Rocks Ecological Reserve while on a sightseeing boat tour from Sooke, British Columbia. Our tour guide Mike Walsh (Adventures by HIP) told us that this sea otter is known locally as Ollie, and he has taken up residence at Race Rocks and the vicinity. I was told that sea otters have not settled near Sooke for over a century, and Ollie is the first returning resident.

Sarah Pillon, Director of Photography, Adventures by HIP, wrote:

"Ollie" the Sea Otter is somewhat of a celebrity around southern Vancouver Island. Although we most frequently observe him at Race Rocks Ecological Reserve, he does move around from time to time. He has taken up residence at the Island Reserve for about 4 years now. Prior to this he was situated between Whiffin Spit and Secretary Island. At one time he was with a second male, but that animal had fallen ill and was taken by the Marine Mammal Rescue in Vancouver and did not survive.

There are no colonies of Sea Otters in the immediate area, but there are colonies along the west coast of the Island (north of Tofino) and also on the west coast of Washington State. Ollie and the deceased individual likely came from one of those colonies.

Ollie has a couple of favorite spots where we can usually find him at Race Rocks, and from time to time we also will find him back at his old hangout at Secretary Island which is about 7 miles away. Sometimes however we will not see him for weeks at a time. Usually, when he is gone for an extended leave, upon his return we will observe him resting for a couple days before he is back to his energetic self. In the kelp bed where he spends most of his time, we will often observe him feeding on urchins and shellfish that he forages from the shallow waters beneath the kelp.

We have only ever seen one other sea otter in the range which we conduct our ocean tours. In August of this year, while observing a pod of Bigg's Orcas we stumbled across another lone animal (definitely not Ollie) about 30 miles west of Race Rocks. He/She was in the middle of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, just floating along, in about 600 ft deep water, miles from any kelp beds. The pod swam right beneath the otter, which did not trouble the otter at all, and continued on their way. There have been sightings of otters in the vicinity of Port Renfrew, as well as the shoreline between Pillar Point and Neah Bay. This individual could have been from any of these locations as they are within 10-15 miles of the site.


Sea otter (Enhydra lutris) taking refuge in bull kelp (Nereocystis luetkeana) canopy.
Photo by Yukiko Kuwata

See Also

View on Map

Race Rocks Marine Protected Area

Sea otter

Strait of Juan de Fuca