The rare sighting of a sea otter swimming just off Southern California has scientists hoping it's a sign of a resurgence for the creatures that were once hunted to near extinction.

The Orange County Register reported Saturday (http://bit.ly/1T3tPwi ) that two employees of the Crystal Cove Alliance spotted the sea otter last week near Laguna Beach.

They were so excited they immediately gave it a name: Ollie the otter.

Julianne Steers, director of husbandry at the Ocean Institute, tells the newspaper it's possible that the mammals are returning to Southern California because there's a food source here that they are chasing.

Steers says there's also been word of sightings off San Clemente and San Mateo.

Sea otters were listed as an endangered species in 1973.

A sighting off Laguna in 2011 was the first in three decades.

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Information from: The Orange County Register, http://www.ocregister.com