Sea otters, © Michael Peters

Making a Difference for California Sea Otters

After tragedy struck this past summer, Defenders is doing all we can to make sure it doesn’t happen again

This summer, Mr. Enchilada – a beloved sea otter that was frequently sighted by tourists — was fatally struck while crossing Moss Landing Road in Monterey, California.  We chronicled this devastating loss and our efforts to ensure that other otters avoid this fate in our blog. We’ve been working hard to make sure sea otters don’t suffer more losses like Mr. Enchilada’s, and we wanted to share an update with you!

How Sea Otters Survive at Moss Landing© Gena Bentall

Sea otters have used culverts, or tunnels, under Moss Landing Road to move between Moss Landing Harbor and Moro Cojo Slough when they are foraging for food. Floodgate covers on the culverts under the road open and shut between these two places.  When the floodgate covers are closed, sea otters must get out of the water and cross Moss Landing Road to move between these two areas.    Unfortunately, this road is busy and it is difficult to spot sea otters crossing the road.

After Mr. Enchilada died, Defenders of Wildlife started working with Monterey County, government wildlife managers and local groups to create solutions for the safety of beloved sea otters. We’re happy to report that we have made a lot of progress.

Defenders’ Work Will Make a Difference for Sea Otters

Just last Tuesday, thanks to strong collaboration with our partners and the Monterey County Public Works Department, the county installed a speed hump on Moss Landing Road to slow down vehicle traffic in the area. Earlier in the year, the county installed sea otter crossing signs with a lowered speed limit in key locations along the road. Unfortunately, drivers continued to speed, despite the signs. Now, with the speed hump in place, drivers must slow down for wildlife! © Gena Bentall

This is an important outcome because sea otters swimming in the harbor will eventually cross the road again to get to food in the slough (swamp). The speed hump will make a huge difference in slowing down traffic, which will ensure sea otters have a better chance at crossing the road safe and sound.

In addition to the speed humps, earlier this fall, we worked with our partners at Sea Otter Savvy to install wildlife cameras on Moss Landing Road. These cameras will monitor the frequency of the otters crossing the road. Understanding how often and when sea otters choose to cross the road will help determine what next steps should be taken for the safety of Monterey’s iconic sea otters.

How You Can Help Too

No matter where you live, we can all help lower the number of collisions with wildlife by taking proper precautions and watching out for wildlife crossing our roads. For some tips check out our Watch Out for Wildlife page.

Categories: Wildlife

6 Responses to “Making a Difference for California Sea Otters”

  1. KM Dutton

    Hey Joshua,
    Great blog on your sea otter work in CA. fascinated to learn sea otters use crossing
    areas on road to access food sources. Keep up the good work!

  2. Krista L Carey

    Thank you for this. Sea Lions also do come out there occasionally when ill with sight issues and have to be rescued.

  3. Pat Vosberg

    Thank you. Between pups starving or hit by cars, this has been a rough year.

  4. Nick Rabalais

    Thank you MCPW for going the extra mile to protect otters and other marine wildlife. I live in Lousiana, but the Monterey Bay area is the most special place on earth to me due in no small part to the iconic wildlife.

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