We observed 40 California sea otters, Enhydra lutris, that were instrumented with implanted radio transmitters and flipper-tagged, and obtained additional data on the reproduction of tagged female otters from the California Department of Fish and Game.
The proportion of instrumented females accompanied by a pup peaked in the spring, with a secondary peak in the fall. Two methods of estimating the annual reproductive rate gave comparable values of 0.90 and 0.94. The average inter-birth interval was 389 d. Two methods of estimating pup survival to weaning gave values of 0.46 and 0.58. Pups either remained with a female less than 80 or more than 120 d. Early mortality of dependent pups appears to be more frequent in California than in Prince William Sound, Alaska.
Two methods of estimation indicated that adult females had the highest survival rates and adult males the lowest. Juvenile females had lower survival rates than adult females but juvenile males had higher survival rates than adult males. The survival rate of juvenile females was lower than that of juvenile males.
The estimated annual loss rate for flipper-tags, based on the instrumented individuals, was 0.26. More individuals lost two tags than would be expected by chance. It is unlikely that accurate estimates of sea otter survival rates can be derived from observations of tagged individuals.