A brown furry sea otter the size of
a collie dives
down into the clear blue water of Prince William Sound to search
for food. Crabs, clams, sea urchins and mussels are all prey to
sea otters in this beautiful wilderness in southern Alaska.
Overhead, sea gulls and bald eagles fly gracefully through the
air. In the distance a whale emerges above the water's surface.
Surrounding Prince William Sound are the majestic jagged snow-capped
Chugach (pronounced Chew-gatch) Mountains, and beyond, to the
south, the Pacific Ocean. Rocks, some the size of boulders, carve
out a rough shoreline.
There on the rocks, fifty yards from where the sea otter dove
for food, Brenda Ballachey, a wildlife biologist, peers through
a telescope mounted on a tripod. She and a colleague, who both
work for the U.S. government's National Biological Service, take
turns watching and recording what they see. They spend the day
observing the otters.
stay underwater anywhere from 40 seconds to four minutes foraging
for food and then surface. They roll over on their backs and float
in the water, balancing their prey on their chests while they
Brenda looks very carefully to see what type of food the sea
otter found and how large the prey is. She also records how many
prey an otter finds during a feeding session, and how long it
took the otter to locate the prey during each dive.
Brenda's observations are part of a project the government is
conducting to determine the effects a huge oil spill eight years
ago had on sea life in the Alaska waters.
(excerpted from the biography written by Mary Knudson, and the
entire biography is available on the Sea Otter Biologist CD-ROM.)