Sea Otters and Ed Ricketts:
Direct Excerpted Quotations
by
Edward F. Ricketts


Compiled in 2002 by
Robert 'Roy' J. van de Hoek
Field Ecologist, Marine Biologist, and Geographer
Sierra Club and Wetlands Action Network
Chitons of the Pacific Coast
A Color Plate of Chitons in Ed Ricketts' 1948 Second Edition of Between Pacific Tides
Do Sea Otters Prey Upon Chitons? Yes for some. No for others.



A learned institution sent an expedition southward, one of whose many projects was to establish whether or no the sea-otter was extinct. In due time it returned with the information that the sea-otter was indeed extinct. One of us, some time later, talking with a woman on the coast below Monterey, was astonished to hear her describe animals living in the surf which could only be sea-otters, since she described accurately animals she couldn't have known about except by observation. A report of this to the institution in question elicted no response, It had extincted sea-otters and that was that. It was only when a reporter on one of our more disreptubale newspapers photographed the animal that the public was informed. It is not yet known whether the institution of learning."
Sea of Cortez, by John Steinbeck and Edward Ricketts, 1941, page 213-214.


In a channel on Echachis, a large wild animal working in the kelp. Between a mink and fox in size, fairly flat but very slim, beautiful gray fur, short legs. A wonderful-looking beast that scuttled away, where, I could never make out, when I appeared. Apparently a land otter, but there's just one chance in a thousand it may have been a sea otter (which are reputed still to occur on these rugged offshoer islands here and in the Charlottes; those in the Charlottes aren't ever visited to this day) on one of his rare excursions ashore. In California, they never are known to go ashore. In the old days they used to. And here they may still. *1

*1 - Footnote by Joel Hedgpeth, 1978: "This is a difficult identification to make from the limited observation but the grey color does suggest a sea otter, as does the animal's prompt disappearance. The fisher is very dark brown, almost black, usually, and the marten is also quite distinctly brown. A land otter could appear greey and it is a pity Ricketts makes no mention of the tail. Possibly this could be significant, since the tail is very much noticeable in the land otter or fisher or even marten, while the sea otter has a very short and barely noticeable tail. (R. L. Haig-Brown.)



Excerpt of March 7, 1947 Monterey Herald Newspaper Article by Ed Ricketts.
If we be hoggish, if we fail to cooperate in working this thing out, Monterey COULD go the way of Nootka, Fort Ross, Notley's Landing, or communities in the Mother Lode, ghost towns that faded when the sea otter or lumber or the gold mining failed. If we'll harvest each year only that year's fair proportion (and it'll take probably an international commission to implement such a plan!) there's no reason why we shouldn't go on indefinitely profiting by this effortless production of sea and sun and fertilizer. The farmer in the dell can go on with his harvesting.

Concluding Remarks
by
Robert Roy van de Hoek
If read carefully about Ed Ricketts' comment of the Sea Otter on land, he is attempting to show that sea otters are found utilizing the area between pacific tides, namely the sandy beach.

A careful research of the writings of Edward Ricketts reveals that he was aware of the importance of sea otters. Ed Ricketts also thought sea otters were "beautiful" and "wonderful." Ed lamented their loss in California. Even the friend and professional colleague of Ed Ricketts, Joel Hedgpeth was fond of the Sea Otter, Seal, and other marine mammals. More on all of this later. In the 1968 edition of Between Pacific Tides, Joel Hedgepth included a significant contribution about the sea otter. It must have been apparent to Joel Hedgpeth that Ed Ricketts would have approved. In the 1985 edition of Between Pacific Tides, David Phillips included new information on the sea otter in the appendix and the text, to supplement Joel Hedgepth's 1968 edition. It is clearly noticeable that Ed Ricketts' book, Between Pacific Tides, that was ready to go to the press by 1932, but published in 1939, is a living, breathing document, tome, magnum opus, that is still in print in 2002. The thoughts of Ed Ricketts and the sea otter and marine biology and the small sane animals of the ocean, is still going strong, for nearly 70 years, in the classic book, Between Pacific Tides.

POSTSCRIPT ON BIRDS
Ed Ricketts on Bird Ecology and Intertidal Region
186. Emerita analoga (Pl. XXIX) is the mole crab or sand crab, the "sand bug" of the beach-frequenting small boy. The shell is almost egg-shaped - a contour that is efficient for dwellers in shifting sands where the surf is high, since the pressure is distributed too evenly to throw the animal out of balance........

...taken advantage of by hungry birds as well as curious collectors and bait-gatherers. The latter use the animals in their soft-shelled stag, that is just after they have moulted.

154. A giant beach hopper, Orchestoidea corniculata, is successful in this barren environment, possibly because it lives high up, avoiding the "old devil sea" to which it belongs. ...............

Smallwood, who has worked with an East-coast beach flea that is similar in form and habitat to our Orchestoidea, believes that the animals' reactions to light do not account for their nocturnal habits, but that keeping out of sight in the daytime is simply a protection against birds.

155. A second and much smaller beach hopper, Orchestoidea benedicti, is the only animal from the surf-swept beaches that is at home here as well. Unlike the larger hoppers, it can be found at will during the day, which seems to upset the bird theory unless its size or flavor are protective factors.