Steller’s Sea Cow used to inhabit the shallow, cold waters of the Bering sea around the Commander Islands. The last known population was on Bering Islands in 1741 (which is also when the species was first recorded). Reports state that the Steller’s Sea Cow was probably extinct by 1768.
Many scientists believe that the hunting of the Steller’s Sea Cow was probably enough to lead the species into extinction. The Sea Cows were hunted for their meat and leather and they were an easily available source of meat for Russian fur hunters.
However, some other scientists argue that it was the hunting of sea otters that lead to the demise of the largest Sirenia species. Sea otters ate sea urchins, the sea urchins ate the kelp that the sea cow also ate. The hunting of sea otters meant that the numbers of sea urchins soared and ultimately meant that the sea cows had less kelp readily available to eat.
More than likely it was a combination of the two factors that ultimately lead to the extinction of Steller’s Sea Cow.
Click here to read about more animals that have been lost forever.
- The IUCN Red List
- Anderson, 1995