Habitat associations and photo-identification of sea otters in Simpson Bay, Prince William Sound, Alaska
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Habitat associations of sea otters during resting and feeding were investigated in Simpson Bay, Prince William Sound, Alaska during the summer months of 2001-2003. Sea otter locations collected during boat surveys were overlaid on bathymetry and sediment maps and water depth, sediment type, distance from shore, and position in the bay (peripheral vs. central) was determined for each. Logistic regression analysis was used to determine whether sea otter habitat use was non-random according to any of these habitat variables. Water depth was the most significant habitat association for feeding behavior, with the majority of feeding dives occurring in shallow water less than 20m deep. Position in the bay was the most significant habitat association for resting behavior, with more otters resting in the center of the bay. In addition, digital images taken of the sea otters during the boat surveys of 2002 and 2003 were used to examine the potential of using nose scars to photo-identify individual sea otters. Both male and female sea otters bore nose scars. Forty-five percent of all individuals encountered were considered identifiable from nose scars and a total of 114 individuals were identified. This compares favorably with the results of photo-identification studies of other marine mammals, suggesting that photo-identification may be a useful tool for the individual identification of sea otters as well.
Gilkinson, Andrea Karin (2004). Habitat associations and photo-identification of sea otters in Simpson Bay, Prince William Sound, Alaska. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Texas A&M University. Available electronically from