SANTA CRUZ - Scientists say they're encouraged by signs that the southern sea otter population in California is slowly recovering, but say there are still reasons for concern.
The U.S. Geological Survey said Monday that a recent count found sea otter numbers have exceeded 3,090 for the first time. If those numbers hold for the next two years, federal officials could consider removing the otter from Endangered Species Act protections.
The southern sea otter's range spans the coast from Monterey south to Cambria.
The USGS says a five-year growth trend is due in part to increased availability of sea urchins, sea otters' prey of choice.
But researchers say localized population declines at the northern and southern ends of the range continue to be a cause for concern among resource management officials.