During 2002−15 we examined the causes of mortality in a population of northern sea otters (Enhydra lutris kenyoni). Beachcast sea otters were collected primarily from the US coast of Washington. Although there are no permanent sea otter residents in Oregon, several beachcast otters were collected from the Oregon coast. Infectious diseases were the primary cause of death (56%) for otters we examined. Sarcocystosis was the leading infectious cause of death (54%) and was observed throughout the study period. Some infectious diseases, such as morbilliviral encephalitis and leptospirosis, were documented for a limited number of years and then not detected again despite continued testing for these pathogens in necropsied animals. Trauma was the second most common cause of death (14%) during the study period. The continued stable growth of the Washington population of otters suggests they are able to tolerate current mortality rates.
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Vol. 54 • No. 2