We estimated survival of sea otters (Enhydra lutris) for 1 year post weaning during 1992-1993 in Prince William Sound (PWS), location of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill. We sampled 38 pups in eastern PWS (EPWS), an unoiled area occupied by sea otters for <15 years, and 33 pups from oiled western PWS (WPWS), occupied for >25 years. We compared survival between areas, sexes, and condition groups. We also examined the relation of blood parameters to survival. Survival was estimated at 0.74 in EPWS and 0.52 in WPWS. Female survival was 0.86 in EPWS and 0.64 in WPWS, whereas male survival was lower, 0.61 in EPWS and 0.44 in WPWS. Sea otters from EPWS were in better condition (mass/length) than WPWS sea otters. Pups in better condition had higher survival in EPWS but not in WPWS. Foraging success was greater in EPWS than in WPWS, consistent with either an effect of length of occupation or the effects of oil on the prey base or a combination of these effects. Area differences in blood parameters suggested liver damage in WPWS sea otters, perhaps resulting from continued exposure to oil. Thus, both length of occupation and oiling history likely influenced juvenile survival in PWS.
Additional publication details
Correlates to survival of juvenile sea otters in Prince William Sound, Alaska, 1992-1993