British Columbia·Video

Sea otter caught on camera in rare sighting near B.C.'s Georgia Strait

Once locally extinct along the entire B.C. coastline, a frolicking visitor offered some hope this week that sea otters may return permanently to the Salish Sea.

Victoria resident Cheryl Alexander hopes the little mammal chooses to stick around her cove

Cheryl Alexander took photos of a curious sea otter in a cove near her home at Ten Mile Point, in Victoria, B.C., Thursday morning. (Cheryl Alexander)

Cheryl Alexander almost couldn't believe her eyes when she spotted a sea otter frolicking and feeding in a cove off Ten Mile Point in Victoria, B.C., Thursday morning.

"We ended up having this interaction with him, which was really amazing," she told CBC News.

"He swam right up to where we were standing on the shore, and we have a couple little steps that go into the water, and he put himself on the first step, boost himself up, and then he tried to get on my husband's kayak," she said.

Alexander had her camera ready, and she took photos and video of the encounter, which you can watch above.

The otter visiting the cove near the Alexanders' home was interested in them and their kayaks. (Cheryl Alexander)

Sign of a rebound?

Once locally extinct in B.C. waters as a direct result of the sea otter pelt trade in the 1700s and 1800s, around 5,000 sea otters now call B.C. home, according to the Vancouver Aquarium.

In the late 60s and early 70s, a re-introduction project brought 89 sea otters from Alaska to the West Coast of Vancouver Island.

Though the marine mammal has since re-established itself there and in pockets on B.C.'s Central Coast, sea otters have not yet come back to the Georgia Strait in any established groups, making any sighting east of Sooke a rare treat — nevermind an encounter at Vancouver Island's most easterly point.

Alexander said the cute and curious sea otter she photographed Thursday stuck around all night, and was still hanging out in the cove Friday morning. (Cheryl Alexander)

Alexander said the cute and curious sea otter stuck around all night, and was still hanging out in the cove Friday morning when she went out to take a look. She says she hopes the sea otter sticks around, and that more join it.

Sea otters tend to keep to sheltered islands, reefs, fjords, bays and kelp forests and they number roughly 3,000 to the south, from Washington to California, with 22,500 living off the Russian coast and the bulk of the North Pacific Ocean population, almost 72,000, living off Alaskan coastlines.

Alexander says she was ecstatic to see a sea otter this far into the Salish Sea, and she hopes others join it. (Cheryl Alexander)

With files from the CBC's Jillian Stead


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