Rare sea otter sighting on Oregon Coast getting lots of attention

Photo courtesy Ram Papish via the Fish and Wildlife Service Facebook page

NEWPORT, Ore. (KPTV) - A sea otter that found its way to the Oregon Coast is getting a lot of attention this month.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the otter was first spotted at Yaquina Head, just north of Newport. 

Since then, crowds have gathered to watch the otter groom itself and eat purple sea urchin. 

Sea otters were hunted to near extinction by traders in the 18th and 19th centuries, the Fish and Wildlife Service says. 

Michele Zwartjes, a USFWS field office supervisor who is authoring a feasibility study on the potential reintroduction of the species to the area, says although rare, sea otter sightings do happen a few times a year on the coast. Most of them are solitary males from Washington. There's a 900-mile gap between the West Coast sea otter populations in Washington and California. 

If sea otters returned, they would be the main predators for purple sea urchins, which would in turn have a beneficial impact on kelp forests, Zwartjes says. 

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