Over the last month or so, we at the Vancouver Aquarium had been receiving reports that conditions in Kyuquot Sound, on the northwest coast of Vancouver Island, had been quite different this summer. This resulted in concerns that the sea otters were not as abundant as before and perhaps they were exhibiting some strange behaviour.
Recently, we had the opportunity to venture there with former board director Peter Miles to see firsthand for ourselves what, if anything, might be happening. As soon as I was able to find time in Aquarium veterinarian Dr. Marty Haulena’s work schedule, we headed out to catch the ferry to Nanaimo. The next morning, we met up with Pete at the Campbell River airport, bought food at the local grocery store and headed out for the long drive up the Island Highway.
In Kyuquot Sound, we saw a number of sea otters, a little inquisitive of our presence, busy either grooming or diving for and eating clams. Eating is a full time job for sea otters – their metabolism is high and they have to eat almost all the time. The Kyuqout area is abundant with clams, so it’s ideal for sea otters and the total population is high. The rest of their day is mostly spent grooming their dense fur or sleeping.
We continued to explore the next morning and saw many sea otters that all appeared healthy. But the population is large and we barely scratched the surface. The trip was short and informative, but it raised more questions than answers.
Nevertheless, we made connections for additional monitoring and started making plans to return for more intensive exploration. There was no stopping on the way back, and the 10-hour door-to-door journey was spent discussing how we might get a good handle on the environmental changes and health of animal populations in areas like Kyuquot.