MONTEREY (KCBS) – The U.S. Geological Survey is reporting a big jump in the number of dead sea otters being found along the California coast.

The agency reported about 304 carcasses found last year in California, up from 232 dead otters in 2009.

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The Otter Project chief executive Steve Shimek said more female otters and pups were found in 2010.

“Now we also know that a large number of pups died in 2010,” Shimek said. “So we’re not replacing animals with pups and with females dying, the reproductive potential of the population is also being decreased.”

KCBS’ Chris Filippi Reports:

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Shimek said 20 percent of the otter deaths were caused by predators, but about half were killed by disease.

“Sea otters are in the same water that when we go the beach, when we go scuba diving, when we go swimming in the ocean,” he said. “All those activities that we do on the beach, that’s the same water. And the otters are telling us there is something wrong with the water.”

A count in the spring put the sea otter population at a little more than 2,700.

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