I had quite a few people find interest in the story about a sea lion climbing on board a kayak last Saturday in North Moss Landing Harbor. To Recap. It appeared as though an adult male sea otter was attempting to mate with a juvenile sea lion. The sea lion’s nose had been bitten much like when male sea otters bite female otters during their courtship. The female’s nose is often cut up. I had just rafted up my kayakers and was about to give instruction regarding our protocol for passing by the “sea lion dock” as we entered Elkhorn Slough when two animals popped up near our boats.
I soon realized that what we were actually viewing was a sea otter and juvenile sea lion which quickly approached our boat and climbed onboard. Our focus quickly became easing our paddler and giving her instructions to stay calm as we moved away from the vicinity of the sea otter. Occasionally sea otters will attempt to climb on board. Part of our safety talk before launching is briefing our group on how to avoid such otters and our first protocol is to leave an area where one is. The last thing we needed was a sea otter attempting to climb onboard as well. We moved towards our destination, the Highway One bridge marking the entrance to Elkhorn Slough and then encouraged the sea lion to depart.
Elkhorn Slough is an incredible place to experience wildlife. During our guided trips, we brief people in length about the appropriate way to interact with the marine mammals found in Elkhorn Slough. The Marine Mammal Act requires that humans stay 100 yards away from a marine mammal. As boaters launching in North Moss Landing Harbor, we are closer than 100 yards as soon as we are floating. Extra care is needed as you launch in North Moss Landing Harbor. If you are kayaking with a group, we suggest that you stay near the shore or hold onto the dock until everyone is ready to paddle. This will avoid people indadvertedly drifting too close to the harbor seals which are directly across from the launch area.
A good general rule with marine mammals is if you alter the behavior of an animal, you are then too close. We site examples such as an animal looking around, swimming away, raising its head up or sliding off the beach.
Pupping season for the harbors seals is about to begin and each year we hear reports of people trying to pick up a baby harbor seal or sea otter. While intentions are good, picking up a marine mammal is potentially lethal to the young animal as it might lead to separation from its mother. During the spring time, kayakers and other boats need to be extra careful not too disturb our local marine mammals and their pups.
The picture posted here was taken from shore using a telephoto lens. A great place to photograph otters is at the end of Jetty Road in Moss Landing State Park. Remain quiet and photograph in the parking lot. The sea otters may be right below the parking area but do not climb down the cliff to get a better picture. The cliffs are unstable and the otters will become spooked.
Our local marine resources from baby harbors seals to our vast wetlands are simply incredible. Lets enjoy in a respectful way.