Growing up during the 1970s in California, I learned about the ecology of the central coast in my science classes. During that period sea otters were endangered and very rare in the wild. My school district had a science camp, Camp Jones Gulch, near a La Honda, California. Over the years, I was able to spend three separate weeks there, one as a sixth-grade student and two during high school as a camp counselor. I have fond memories of those experiences exploring and learning about the coastal ecosystem. I was especially interested in marine mammals, but in spite of hours of eager searching I never spotted a single otter.
By the mid-1980s when I moved to Utah the only live sea otters I had ever seen were in aquariums and zoos. However, thanks to conservation efforts the population along the California coast has slowly improved since then. Even though current populations are down from previous years, there are now places where a person can go to see them in their natural habitat.
This year my family spent the week of Christmas at Camp Ocean Pines near Cambria, California. Near there is Morro Bay, which is one of those places. I was extremely excited to show my kids the coast, and especially to be so near a place where we might see some otters. During our stay we took some time to visit the state park there and found a few individuals lazily drifting in the tide not far from shore.
Click to for some of the photos from that trip. Continue reading