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Annual California Sea Otter Census - 2017 Spring Census Summary

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Tinker, M.T., and Hatfield, B.B., 2017, Annual California sea otter census—2017 spring census summary: U.S. Geological Survey data release,


The spring 2017 mainland sea otter count began on April 30, and although the shore-based counts were completed by May 12, 2017, the aerial counts were not completed until July 12, 2017. Overall viewing conditions this year were good, although not as good as conditions experienced during the 2016 spring census (View Score 2.4 versus 3.1, where 0=poor, 1=fair, 2=good, 3=very good, and 4=excellent). The surface canopies of kelp (Macrocystis sp.) were considered by most participants to be considerably below normal for this time of year in most areas of the mainland range. Sea otters along the mainland coast were surveyed from Pillar Point in San Mateo County in the north to Rincon Point in the south at the Santa Barbara/Ventura County [...]

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Point of Contact :
M. Tim Tinker
Originator :
M. Tim Tinker, Brian B. Hatfield
Metadata Contact :
U.S. Geological Survey, Western Ecological Research Center
Distributor :
GS ScienceBase
USGS Mission Area :
SDC Data Owner :
Western Ecological Research Center

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The range-wide census is conducted to monitor trends in abundance of the southern sea otter, and thus provide State and Federal resource agencies with the information they need for effective management. Because the censuses represent uncorrected total counts (rather than sample-based surveys), they cannot be considered as accurate estimates of true population abundance. Instead, these data represent a valuable time-series of index counts, and provide the means of assessing spatial and temporal trends in relative abundance. The 3-year running average of the spring counts have been identified as the best index of trends and status of the population, because these averages decrease the influence of year-to-year sampling variance. The 3-year average counts are used by the US Fish and Wildlife Service in its listing determinations (de-listing or up-listing) for this legally threatened population.


The authors of these data require that data users contact them regarding intended use and to assist with understanding limitations and interpretation. Unless otherwise stated, all data, metadata and related materials are considered to satisfy the quality standards relative to the purpose for which the data were collected. Although these data and associated metadata have been reviewed for accuracy and completeness and approved for release by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), no warranty expressed or implied is made regarding the display or utility of the data on any other system or for general or scientific purposes, nor shall the act of distribution constitute any such warranty. Any use of trade, firm, or product names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.


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  • USGS Data Release Products
  • USGS Western Ecological Research Center

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Type Scheme Key
DOI doi:10.5066/F7R2109J

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