"Sea Otter Recovery Is Sending Ripples through the Ecosystem"

"On Pleasant Island, Alaska, wolves are feasting on sea otters. That’s surprisingly bad news for deer."

"Gretchen Roffler recalls looking out on the waterfront in Alaska’s Katmai National Park and Preserve as three wolves came into view, then disappeared behind some rocks. When the predators returned, all three were gripping the same limp sea otter between their jaws. Working together, the wolves tore the otter to pieces. “It was like a tug of war,” says Roffler, a wildlife biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Roffler and her colleagues paid close attention; they needed to document the June 2021 event in detail. After all, Roffler believes, this was “one of the first observations of wolves killing sea otters.”

Sea otters were extirpated from Alaska in 1830, but their reintroduction over the past few decades has been highly successful. The marine mammal’s resurgence means that in Alaska sea otters and wolves are now inhabiting the same environments for the first time in the modern scientific record. This meeting of historical predator and prey is having important consequences—especially for the region’s deer."

Marina Wang reports for Hakai magazine January 24, 2023.

Source: Hakai, 01/26/2023