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Sea otters poisoned by bacteria

September 23, 2010 |  8:52 am

Some sea otters along California's coast are being poisoned by an ancient microbe that appears to be on an upsurge in warmer, polluted waters around the world.

The discovery was made by Melissa Miller, a state wildlife veterinarian and scientific sleuth investigating the multitude of things killing otters faster than they can reproduce.

The population of southern sea otters has dropped for two years in a row, the U.S. Geological Survey announced last month. An estimated 2,711 otters remain in Central and Southern California waters.

The first clues about this most recent threat came when nearly a dozen otters mysteriously died in Monterey Bay in 2007. Their carcasses were taken to the California Department of Fish and Game laboratory in Santa Cruz, where Miller and others do postmortem analyses. That's where Miller made her discovery.

Read more on sea otters and the deadly microbe poisoning them.

-- Kenneth R. Weiss