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Annual California Sea Otter Census - 1985-2014 Spring Census Summary


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Tinker, M.T., and Hatfield, B.B., 2018, Annual California sea otter census—1985-2014 spring census summary: U.S. Geological Survey data release,


This dataset represents an archived record of annual California sea otter surveys from 1985-2014. Survey procedures involve counting animals during the "spring survey" -- generally beginning in late April or early May and usually ending in late May early June but may extend into early July, depending on weather conditions. Annual surveys are organized by survey year and within each year, three shapefiles are included: census summary of southern sea otter, extra limit counts of southern sea otter, and range extent of southern sea otter. The surveys, conducted cooperatively by scientists of the U.S. Geological Survey, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Monterey Bay Aquarium with the help of [...]


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AnnualCaliforniaSeaOtter_Census_summary_1985_2014.csv 11.44 MB text/csv


The range-wide census is conducted to monitor trends in abundance of the southern sea otter, and thus provide State and Federal resource agencies with the information they need for effective management. Because the censuses represent uncorrected total counts (rather than sample-based surveys), they cannot be considered as accurate estimates of true population abundance. Instead, these data represent a valuable time-series of index counts, and provide the means of assessing spatial and temporal trends in relative abundance. The 3-year running average of the spring counts have been identified as the best index of trends and status of the population, because these averages decrease the influence of year-to-year sampling variance. The 3-year average counts are used by the US Fish and Wildlife Service in its listing determinations (de-listing or up-listing) for this legally threatened population.


The authors of these data require that data users contact them regarding intended use and to assist with understanding limitations and interpretation. Unless otherwise stated, all data, metadata and related materials are considered to satisfy the quality standards relative to the purpose for which the data were collected. Although these data and associated metadata have been reviewed for accuracy and completeness and approved for release by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), no warranty expressed or implied is made regarding the display or utility of the data on any other system or for general or scientific purposes, nor shall the act of distribution constitute any such warranty. Any use of trade, firm, or product names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.



  • USGS Data Release Products
  • USGS Western Ecological Research Center

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DOI doi:10.5066/F7445JQ5

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