Otter-ly Dead: South Spit Gets New Dead Otter

Jennifer Savage / Yesterday @ 8:44 a.m. / Animals , Ocean

People often confuse the river otters frolicking around Trinidad as sea otters – understandable since they’re in the ocean. Sea otters, however, have long been gone from these parts after being hunted to near extinction. The recent discovery of a (sadly) dead sea otter on the South Spit is “darn rare,” according to marine mammal biologist and whale chaser Jeff Jacobsen.

Jacobsen reported that while counting snowy plovers, Grayson Sandy noticed the otter just above the high tide line. He called Jacobsen, who rustled up HSU students David Orluck and Eloy Lopez to help him drive out and collect it.

“It’s a male, 1.5 meters long, probably from the Monterey Bay population, a wandering dude who apparently got lost and hungry,” Jacobsen said. “no obvious signs of external trauma.”

The carcass will be sent via FedEx to the California Fish and Wildlife Department specialists, who will examine and dissect it to determine cause of death. “These critters are so special only a few folk have the permit to do a necropsy,” Jacobsen noted.  The skeleton will eventually be returned for the HSU Vertebrate Museum collection.

He finished with this thought: “Put this together with the green sea turtle and the shark sightings and the Risso’s dolphin stranding and you get… coincidence, not the end-of-the-world climate change scenario, yet.”


Your Week in Ocean: Shark Week, Humboldt-Style

Jennifer Savage / Wednesday, Aug. 6 @ 11:19 a.m. / Ocean , Survival

TRIGGER WARNING: If you’ve experienced a traumatic encounter with a great white, please skip past the below video.

(If you’re new to the area and considering surfing around here, please commit it – and this – to memory.)

That comes to us courtesy of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, from a field trip to Guadalupe Island in Mexico – a fair preview for those of you gripped in the throes of Shark Week anticipation. Now, the Discovery Channel could do a much better job portraying these fascinating creatures than it does*, but nonetheless, I thought it was an opportune moment to review some of LoCO’s shark-related blasts from the past.


* More on what the Discovery Channel’s original goal was, how that’s changed and what’s wrong (and right) about the current Shark Week presentation here.

But let’s keep this all in perspective:




(UPDATES) Your Week in Ocean: More Dead Things, Live Things, Things to Do

Jennifer Savage / Thursday, July 31 @ 6 a.m. / Ocean

People send pictures!

Friend of LoCO Stacey emailed the photo above, particularly intrigued by the blue tag attached to the carcass. Jeff Jacobsen, our go-to guy for this sort of thing, ID’d the remains as belonging to “…some young pinniped, most likely a California sea lion. The blue plastic tie wrap on it likely is to tag it as already counted, like they do with birds for the COASST surveys.”

UPDATE: HSU prof Dawn Goley confirmed, “Yep – they are part of the protocol for the HSU Marine Mammal Stranding Program. We mark the carcasses so we don’t recount during subsequent surveys.”

Botanist extraordinaire Jen Kalt emailed, “Look what I found in Hollow Tree Creek, behind timber company gates at least five miles from the windy part of Highway 1, laying on the mossy streambank next to the rare plants we were mapping. My field partner informed me that this is Princess Sophie Belle, from Beauty and the Beast, a Disney character she is hoping her three-year-old isn’t going to identify with.”

(Do we need to point out the senseless environmental harm caused by releasing balloons into the wild blue yonder?)

Gary Lester wondered if he’d found sea turtle tracks at Crannell Beach…

… but they’re just your average ol’harbor seal tracks according to marine mammal experts. But, wait! Just after he wrote the update, Gary said, he heard about a injured green sea turtle was found in Trinidad! Sadly, attempts to save the turtle failed as it died en route to the Sausalito Marine Life Care facility.

UPDATE: HSU Marine Lab Director Brian Tissot confirmed the sea turtle story and sent a link to the Facebook photos below.


From left, Lynda Stockton from the North Coast Marine Mammal Center and Dan Hobby, Olivia Barry and Heather Clyma from The HSU Marine Lab.

People often think they’ve stumbled upon “a baby great white” when finding a dead guy like the one above. White sharks are typically at least five feet long at birth, however, and that guy is most likely a mako pup, not typically seen so close to shore here, due to the cold water, but with ocean temps bumping up to 60 degrees, that’s our guess. In less-dead shark news, check out the photo, below, Jenna Kilby snapped while kayaking out off Trinidad.

“Hey, there!” Salmon? Mako? Porbeagle? What do you think, readers?


Saturday, Aug. 2: Explore Humboldt Bay: Hike the Hikshari Trail.Free, docent-led natural history tour of the Hikshari Trail in Eureka in Spanish and English, 9:30 to 11 a.m.

Saturday, Aug. 2: Support Friends of the Dunes by visiting the Sewell Gallery, 423 F St., during Arts Alive! from 6 to 9 p.m. featuring internationally known wire sculptor Elizabeth Berrien Tuesday, Aug. 5: (Re)Debris workshop at SCRAP Humboldt, 7 to 8:30 p.m. Help build a sea creature out of trash!

Thursday, Aug. 7: Ocean Night! At Arcata Theatre Lounge, 6:30 p.m., showing Angel Azul and What the Sea Gives Me, featuring local artist Matt Beard. Get a sneak preview via KHUM’s Coastal Currents. (Bonus question: Can you guess which one is Matt Beard?)

Jennifer Savage is the Northcoast Environmental Center’s Coastal Programs Director and chairs the Humboldt chapter of the Surfrider Foundation.


Your Week in Ocean: Strange Sightings [UPDATED] [PHOTOS]

Jennifer Savage / Thursday, July 17 @ 9:16 a.m. / Ocean

Photo by M. Sid Kelly – follow him on Twitter for more stunning photos and general knowledge goodness.

“What IS this?” is the common refrain this month. While most folks recognize the Velellas (above, commonly known as “by-the-wind sailors”) carpeting the sand, other images have recently popped up in my inbox demanding identification. Like these:

Along with the above photos, Kym forwarded a note from LoCO reader Veronica Daw:

“Hi, saw this at clam beach on Monday surrounded by vultures and ravens.  I thought the big round thing in it’s head was wierd, like a tumor or somthing.  My friend thinks it’s a porpoise.”

Local marine mammal biologist Jeff Jacobsen agrees:

“Harbor porpoise is my first and second guess. Big round thing is the skull, a hole pecked in it. Probably a calf, there is a peak in calving and calves on beaches July 4, this one a bit late, looks small, though no obvious fetal folds or umbilicus, both of which could have faded by now, and sand covers a lot of it. Flukes don’t seem curled, common in neonates. So this kid could be a few weeks old. The bones would be soft and fragile on a calf, easy to peck into, get those tasty rich brains.”

Congrats, Veronica’s friend! You are correct! (Sorry, no prize other than the satisfaction of being right, friend.)

Meanwhile, avid beachgoer, NCJ staffer and my good pal Amy Barnes happened upon a gooseneck barnacle-laden buoy on Clam Beach – be sure to check out her son’s video of the bizarro buggers. 

In less creepy critter news, the Humboldt Bay Critter Crawl happened! 

Any LoCO readers inspired to utilize the bay this way? Background here.

If you’re wondering what to do with all your expired Advil, outdated birth control pills and other pharmaceuticals taking up space in your medicine cabinet, City of Eureka Public Works Pollution Expert Justin Boyes explained exactly why you should neither trash nor flush them yesterday on Coastal Currents. (Spoiler: Take them to an Open Door clinic. Unless they’re a controlled substance – Oxycontin for example – in which case, call Humboldt Waste Management Authority to ask about the next hazardous waste collection date.

Things to do

The Northcoast Environmental Center is building on its beach stewardship history this summer with (Re)Debris, a marine debris educational sculpture utilizing trash gathered from North Coast beach cleanups built in collaboration with SCRAP Humboldt and sponsored by a grant from the Coastal Commission. Community members can help build the creature by attending any in a series of workshops at SCRAP Humboldt’s The (Re)Workshop, 101 H St., Arcata, including one tonight from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Future workshops are Tuesday, July 22, Tuesday July 29 and Tuesday, Aug. 5, all from 7 to 8:30 p.m. 

You can join the PacOut Green Team for a trash cleanup in Arcata this Saturday, July 9 at 8:30 a.m.: PacOut Green Team vs Redwood Curtain Disc Golf Course Front 9 – Sponsored by Shafer’s Ace Hardware. (The group has helpfully mapped out a year’s worth of cleanups. Plan accordingly.)

Humboldt Baykeeper and the Northcoast Environmental Center are partnering with the Humboldt Bay Aquatic Center and the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District to offer free monthly bilingual tours covering a variety of topics related to Humboldt Bay. For the first time, the “Bay Explorations” tours will be narrated in both Spanish and English. A motorized tour takes place this Saturday, July 19 – email or call 786-3754 for more info or to join.

Join an experienced Friends of the Dunes naturalist for Nature Story Time at the Humboldt Coastal Nature Center on Saturday, July 19 from 2 to 3 p.m. Geared for ages 3 to 6, story time will focus on local wildlife and a simple craft project. Reserve a space by calling 444-1397.

Friends of the Dunes also offers the Dune Detectives Summer Camp at the Humboldt Coastal Nature Center. This week-long day camp program for ages 5 to 8 will connect participants to the diverse coastal habitats of the Samoa Peninsula. Participants will visit beaches, dunes, wetlands, and coastal forests while learning about nature and history through inquiry based learning and creative expression. While exploring diverse coastal habitats, participants will learn about the animals and plants that live there through games, songs, and hands-on exploration. The cost of this half day program is $80 for Friends of the Dunes members and $95 for non-members. To sign up, call 444-1397 or stop by the Humboldt Coastal Nature Center. Registration closes Monday, July 21.


Can we get one of these for Humboldt Bay?

“For people who find it hard to believe the Earth really is warming, new visual evidence will soon be available – two atlases, one showing graphically the retreat of Arctic ice, the other the human and economic price exacted by extreme weather.” 

Happy #NudibranchWeek!

Palmer’s Point nudi

Mind the Plovers

Jennifer Savage / Friday, July 11 @ 6 a.m. /

Newly hatched western snowy plover chicks. Photo by Sean McAllister.

Friends of the Dunes sent the following announcement:

For the first time in decades, a pair of nesting western snowy plovers has been sighted in Manila. 

This small threatened shorebird nests on bare sand just above the high tide line, and forages for invertebrates in wet and dry sand. Friends of the Dunes would like to remind community members to share the beach with snowy plovers that are nesting and raising their young from March to September.

The best way to avoid disturbing a nest is to keep activities on the waveslope (the area between the high tide line and the ocean), and to view wildlife from a distance. Dogs should be kept on the waveslope as well, and should be under voice control or on a leash. And always remember to pack out your trash, litter and food waste can attract predators such as ravens to areas where snowy plovers nest.

Wildlife biologists use a series of 4 colored leg bands to identify individual adult western snowy plovers. Photo by Sean McAllister.

The Pacific Coast population of the western snowy plover is a distinct sub-population that is federally was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1993, and is a Bird Species of Special Concern in California. This Pacific Coast population breeds along tidal waters from Washington to Baja California, and a small population breeds in coastal Northern California. In 2013, there were 41 breeding adults in Humboldt and Mendocino Counties.

In recent years, snowy plovers have nested at Gold Bluff Beach, Stone Lagoon, Big Lagoon, Little River State Beach, Clam Beach, Mad River Beach, Eel River Wildlife Area and Centerville Beach. But a nest has not been recorded in Manila since 1977.

For more information about the western snowy plover you can call Friends of the Dunes at (707) 444-1397, stop by the Humboldt Coastal Nature Center located at 220 Stamps Lane in Manila, or visit