Cat and opossum feces travel to storm drains via runoff and toilet disposal, eventually coming into contact with sea otters and infecting them with deadly apicomplexan protozoan parasites that cause encephalitis.
Parasites and infectious disease contribute to sea otter mortality, specifically Toxoplasma gondii, which infects domestic cats (Felis catus), and Sarcosystis neurona, which infects opossums. These apicomplexan protozoan parasites infect the sea otter and cause encephalitis. It is postulated that cat and opossum feces travel to storm drains via runoff and disposal in toilets, eventually coming into contact with sea otters.
In September 2006, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger passed a law raising the maximum fine for harming a sea otter to $25,000, and required that all cat litter sold in California display a warning label that advises not to dump cat feces down storm drains or in toilets.
An acanthocephalen worm (Profilicollis) has also been linked to mortality and decline in the sea otter population.
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• Sources | (Allegra & Gunderson 2012; Cohn, 1998; Cray, 2006; Doroff & Burdin, 2011; Estes, 1980; Estes & Duggins, 1995; Estes & Palmisano, 1974; Estes, et al., 1978; Jessup, et al., 2004; Nowak, 1999)