MOSS LANDING, Calif. (KTVU) - A photo of a sea otter nibbling on a flip flop as he floats along may look cute to some - but it's raising serious concerns for marine biologists who say it could have deadly consequences.
Sea Otter Savvy Program Coordinator and Research Biologist Gena Bentall tells KTVU a male sea otter in Moss Landing seems to be getting his paws on a lot of trash lately.
She says trash seems to accumulate along a cul-de-sac area in the Elkhorn Slough where there's a "Sea Otter Crossing."
Bentall says this isn’t a new problem. "You can probably see photo records of otters with trash going back years. This particular otter in this particular spot is picking up a lot of trash. I don't know if that means there's more trash, or he just enjoys picking it up," she said.
The male otter was most recently spotted with a plastic bag earlier this week. Bentall noticed bite marks were taken out of the bag, but it was unclear if he swallowed any. "If he swallows a lot of plastic he will end up on the necropsy table with plastic blocking his intestines," she said.
Since otters are very curious animals Bentall says they pick-up and hold objects, including trash, just as they would with kelp.
When Bentall receives reports of sea otters holding trash, her hands are tied. She says it's virtually impossible for a rescue crew to get a piece of trash from an otter because they'll continue hang onto it and dive when approached.
Since oftentimes trash blows out of trash cans and into waterways, Bentall urges shoppers to remember re-usable bags saying, "It's such an easy fix."