Last updated: May 20, 2016
A sea otter hauled out an in iceberg in Glacier Bay. NPS photo
Rangers frequently encourage visitors to scan the ice in front of Margerie Glacier for harbor seals, but they have a new invitation: scan the ice for sea otters. As the range and population of sea otters in Glacier Bay has grown, people spot the furry creatures in new and unexpected places and scientists are following those trends.
The fur trade extirpated sea otters from southeastern Alaska and the eastern Pacific, but in recent years their population in Glacier Bay has expanded rapidly. Ecologists consider sea otters a keystone species in Glacier Bay. Otters consume vast quantities of clams, urchins, crabs, and other invertebrates and their presence creates ripples through the ecosystem. The Southeast Alaska Network Inventory and Monitory Program has started a collaboration with the Southwest Alaska Network, USGS, and USFWS to develop long-term monitoring frameworks to effectively estimate sea otter abundance.
The sea otter population of Glacier Bay has increased dramatically in the past 20 years. NPS photo
Over the past 20 years, from the first otter showing up in Bartlett Cove to cruise ship passengers spotting otters on icebergs, sea otters have expanded their range in Glacier Bay. These new monitoring efforts will provide important long-term data on sea otters in the bay. Glacier Bay is a place of dynamic change!
Where have you spotted otters?
Learn more about the Southeast Alaska Inventory and Monitoring Network.