As we say goodbye to winter on the Central California coast, the storms are still sending us their much needed rain. Time will pass beyond the solstice—the rain will lessen and the spring days of calm, bright mornings and gusty afternoons will settle upon us. The months of spring, summer, and fall bring forth a celebrated combination of fine weather and human population in vacation mode, and the year-round homes of sea otters are often the destination.
Are you planning a trip to Monterey to explore both the land and sea perspective of iconic Cannery Row? Are you dreaming of a stroll down the Embarcadero and a paddle to view the sea otter raft of Morro Bay? Are you gearing up to explore the upper fingers of Elkhorn Slough? As your paddle first catches the water anywhere along the coast, you become guests in the home of a myriad of species: harbor seals, cormorants, godwits, jellies, sea lions, gray whales, the great undersea forests of giant kelp and, of course, sea otters. It is up to you to be a courteous guest in their home. Here are some tips:
- Know before you go. Study up on the species you might encounter and be sure to know guidelines for responsible behavior around all of them. A little research online will do the trick, but here is a good place to start.
- Leave no trace. Challenge yourself to leave nothing behind: not a piece of trash or an increased stress level.
- Renting? Listen to your outfitter's staff and guides! Most outfitters provide excellent guidelines for paddlers before they head out.
- Consider planning your trip for a less busy time and day—weekdays, non-holidays—whenever fewer others will have the same recreation plans. You will enjoy a less crowded trip and you will be helping to reduce the weekend and holiday burden on the wildlife and habitat.
- Shhhhh, be quiet. The less commotion you make the more natural behaviors you'll see and hear.
- Put your smart phone down. You will not be able to replicate the photos of expert wildlife photographers with your phone without harassing your subject. Selfies with wildlife are selfish. View and experience nature with your eyes open and your phone in your dry bag.
- Use care when you share. Post your favorite photos of your outdoor adventures but provide a good social media example by not sharing photos promoting irresponsible behavior towards the coast's non-human residents. Say no to selfies with wildlife!
- And most importantly: PAY ATTENTION. You are a guest in an amazing place. Watch for wildlife and be alert to how they respond to you. If they are looking at you, it's a warning you have entered their world and need to stop your approach and back away.
So do your holiday homework and paddle out this spring in awareness so you can be the best guest in California's coastal ecosystems that you can be!
Watch and share our two short films about sea otters before you go, to put some sea otter savvy tips on your mind and a song on your lips.