Say it isn't so! The California sea otter, our No. 1 draw to water zoos and aquariums for as long as we can remember, has flippered its adorable little way to the environmental danger zone in a recent California Department of Fish and Game count.
There's only 2,711 left in existence, and the pup population is down 11 percent, according to CBS News. Monterey Bay Aquarium vet Michael Murray blames increased great-white-shark attacks --
Which really only thickens the plot further, as the sharks don't actually ingest the otters, and a shocking new San Francisco Chronicle report finds the great-white-shark population may be dwindling, as well. (Good riddance.)
So you really get a sense of what you'll be missing out on, here's a home video of two California otters just going about their absurdly cute business beneath the Santa Cruz pier:
Awww. He's copying everything his mom's doing! (Fluffy copycats with tiny arms are really fucking cute, YouTube studies show.)
CBS delves deeper into the possible causes of mass otter death:
When otters die they often end up in [Dr. Melissa] Miller's lab, which is a kind of crime scene investigation unit for otter deaths. [Ed. note: Awesome.] Sharks are not the only problem.
"We know something's happening where otters that are prime-aged animals are dying of heart failure," Miller said.
Since sea otters spend their lives right along the coast, their health can be affected not only by what's happening in the sea but also by what's happening on land. It's a complex, often puzzling interaction.
Heart disease could be linked to the otter's voracious appetite that makes it vulnerable to toxic runoff from land, says Tim Tinker of the U.S. Geological Survey, who tracks the otters' food supply.
Where's Erin Brockovich when you need her? (Oh, right -- out in Hinkley, helping the humans. Psh.)
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OK. It's probably time for another baby otter vid:
Get well soon, guys. For our welfare and yours.