Marine biologists say they're seeing an increase in otter deaths
due to white shark "tasting" bites.
"We've never seen indications that the sharks are actually
consuming the otters. It appears to be sort of exploratory bites on
the part of the shark."
is a sea
otter expert with the U.S. Geological Survey
in Santa Cruz. His
latest survey shows there are now 2,792 sea otters in California
waters, a 1.5 percent increase since 2010.
But shark attacks and other causes of death - including
parasites, infectious diseases and boat strikes - have slowed the
Last year, the number of dead, sick or injured sea otters
discovered along the coast was 335 - a record high.
"Although sea otters are certainly a charismatic species
that many people care about, we're interested in them also because
they're excellent indicators of the health of the near shore marine
The southern sea otter is a federally protected species.