Sharks blamed for increase in California otter deaths
SANTA CRUZ, Calif. - Officials say sharks are killing and injuring California's endangered sea otters in record numbers.
U.S. Geological Survey wildlife biologist Tim Tinker told the Los Angeles Times in a story Sunday that shark bites accounted for 15 percent of the sea otter deaths in the late 1990s.
Nearly a third of otter deaths were blamed on sharks in 2010 and 2011.
Tinker, who is with the USGS Western Ecological Research Center in Santa Cruz, says sharks seem to favor breeding-age female otters.
The USGS says 335 dead, sick or injured otters were found last year.
The most recent official sea otter population report said there were 2,711 otters, which is 379 short of the threshold that would begin consideration for removing otters from the federal endangered species list.