The Coastal Living "Wild and Winsome" feature (September 2003) likely whetted your appetite for a visit to Central California's Monterey Peninsula. Here are some tips to make creature-spotting beneficial for both you and the furry mammals.
Otter-viewing ranks among the most popular activities at theMonterey Bay Aquarium, where you can catch daily feeding times forRosa, Maggie, and Mae. These rescued young females lacked adequatesurvival skills for a successful return to the wild. As nurturedcaptives, they will captivate aquarium visitors for the foreseeablefuture.
But many rehabilitated otters have successfully rejoined theirkin in habitats on California's Central Coast, and you can see thespecies au naturel. From Monterey to Point Lobos State Reserve, thepeninsula offers more than a dozen promising sites for viewing wildotters. To see them as such is to appreciate how important it is toprotect their future―one compromised by human andenvironmental factors.
In this compact area, a day or two's meandering by foot and carcan take you to most, or all, of these sites.
• Municipal Wharf
• Fisherman's Wharf
• The Coast Guard Wharf/Breakwater Cove betweenFisherman's Wharf and Cannery Row
• Cannery Row―particularly in the cove below theMonterey Plaza Hotel & Spa
• Lovers Point, Otter Point, andPoint Piños―all waterfront vistas along Ocean ViewBoulevard and Sunset Avenue
Along the 17-Mile Drive and PebbleBeach:
• Point Joe, Bird Rock, CypressPoint, and Pescadero Point
• Carmel Point, north of theCarmel River
The very best:
• Point Lobos State Reserve,with its exquisite convolutions of coves and promontories
Now that you've focused on the sites, here are some suggestionsfor interspecies pleasure and cooperation:
• Carry binoculars to hone in onthe mammals, who may be frolicking, napping, or nurturing theiryoung just beyond naked-eye sighting.
• For photo-ops, a telephoto lens comes in handy.
• If you're boating or kayaking, stay at least 50 feetfrom the otters.
• Enjoy the mammals quietly and respectfully, withoutalarming them in any way.
• Do not approach an otter that appears to be stranded.If in the water, the mammal may be a pup anchored in the kelp whileits mother is diving for food―and she'll probably return. Ifit's on land, and you suspect injury or stranding, call theaquarium's 24-hour security number, 831/648-4840, as soon aspossible.
On the topic of rescuing sea otters, Michelle Staedler makes anurgent plea. She's research coordinator for the Monterey BayAquarium's Sea Otter Research and Conservation (SORAC) program."Sometimes people actually come in carrying an otter," she says."But we try to educate folks not to do that. Instead, call thehotline." The SORAC team will immediately assess the situation.They know how to transport the animal to shelter, safety,and―in many cases―on the road to rehabilitation for areturn to its wild habitat.
• For a free "Otter Spotting Guide," and more on how youcan help much-needed conservation for threatened California seaotters, contact: Friends of the Sea Otter, 381 Cannery Row, SuiteQ, Monterey, CA 93940; call 831/642-9037 or visit seaotters.org. Annualmemberships start at $15 and include regular newsletters, otterstatus reports, and an invitation to the annual meeting held eachautumn in Monterey. All dues and donations support the effectiveadvocacy and educational programs sponsored by this group whosemembers now total more than 4,000 people worldwide.
• To book knowledgeable and entertaining naturalist MilosRadakovich for a personal tour of wild-otter haunts, call831/643-2638 or visit www.mbay.net/~baynet.Fees vary depending upon the number of people, the length of thetour, and whether or not a picnic lunch is desired.
• For more on sea otters at the Monterey Bay Aquarium,contact 831/648-4800 or mbayaq.org. Daily publicfeeding times for Rosa, Maggie, and Mae currently are 10:30, 1:30,and 3:30.
• Be sure your otter-spotting kit includes "Franko's Mapof Monterey" ($6 regular, or $10―and worth it―forwaterproof, rip-proof plastic that folds). Creator Frank Nielsenspecializes in detailed coastal maps. Visit frankosmaps.com, and type"Monterey" into the site search.
• Final tip: Have an otterly delightful time.