Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Woolly Pups and Sunshine

(Letter to a friend:) Last night was the Perspectives program at National Park headquarters about 'Status of the Translocated Sea Otter Population in Washington'; presented by Steven Jeffries, who's been with WDFW for 31 years, he said. He also said,

The impossibly cute little otters are called woolly pups. 'They look like ewoks.' They lose that brown woolly look after a while, and they grow HUGE. A large male can weigh 100 pounds. There's about 1200 of them off the outer coast of the Peninsula now. They're all descended from 30 who were translocated here from Alaska in 1970, and released at La Push. (57 were moved, 30 survived the translocation.)(They had to be moved somewhere, by the way; at that time there was underground nuclear testing going on near their island in the Aleutians.)

They move around in big rafts, and they eat a lot. Urchins are their favorite food. At one point a raft of 80 or so sea otters shifted into the Strait and completely wiped out a huge colony of red sea urchins between Slip Point and Pillar Point. Then left. Presently an enormous bunch hanging out at Destruction Island, where Jeffries guesses they are finding lots of Dungeness crabs to eat. They also like razor clams.

They're very vulnerable to oil. They don't have blubber, and depend on their thick fur for warmth and waterproofing. Even a small spot of oil can be like a hole through which their body heat leaks, and they can die of hypothermia.

According to the Peninsula Daily News this morning, the Coast Guard overflight yesterday saw no signs of a slick from the fishing boat that went down on Thursday. But the article also quotes the resource protection specialist for the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, who says, approximately, it was so windy and the swell so high you couldn't have seen a slick if it was there...

I'll survey my beaches on Friday, to look for oiled birds. If there's a slick and it stays offshore, the sea otters are safe; but birds can encounter the oil out at sea, and can turn up as much as 60 miles from where they get oiled. Right now the weather is gorgeous, rain again on Friday and over the weekend. This is such a consistent pattern I'm starting to think it's a message from the universe to give up my college job since there is only ever sunshine on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. "Don't take it personally," says my reference colleague, DK.

How shall I not. It looked like this today: harbor, Ediz Hook, Strait, Victoria across the water. The ship is Alaskan Legend

If You've Got It, Flaunt It: The View Through the College Library's Windows (Click for larger image.)

I'm reading Carl Safina, The View from Lazy Point. His epigraph, from E. B. White: "I arise in the morning torn between a desire to save the world and a desire to savor the word. That makes it hard to plan the day."


robin andrea said...

I love that E.B. White quote. Excellent.

Rocco said...

Where does White say it? It doesn't seem to have found its way to the Web except for this posting.

mb said...

I just tweeted him to ask.