Russian sea otter hunter Andrei Tolstykh made expeditions to the Pacific in 1749, 1756, and 1760, bringing back a total of 10,218 sea otter pelts. This kind of hunting soon exhausted the otter population on the Russian side of the Pacific, and parties made their way to the Northwest in search of new hunting grounds. Unlike other fur traders, the Russians both traded with the First Nations peoples and hunted sea otters and other fur-bearing animals themselves. There was a market for furs in the cold climate of Russia, and Russian traders brought North American furs to the border city of Kyakhta to sell to Chinese customers.
Captains Bering and Chirikov sailed for Russia into the Pacific Northwest in 1741, setting up the first, uneasy trade relationship with the Tlingit people. Multi-purpose expeditions of exploration also sought valuable furs, but a shortage of ships and crews slowed the Russian movement further south down the western Pacific coast until the 1780s. An independent colony was established on Kodiak Island in 1784, and a claim was made to Sitka Sound in 1795.It was this Russian movement that caused the Spanish to renew their interests in the Pacific Northwest. In 1784, the viceroy of New Spain set up a Californian sea otter trade to China through the Philippines, showing his concern about the competition from Russia further north. The Spanish also wanted to ensure that the north Pacific coast, which was viewed as a strategic “buffer” of uncharted lands above California, would remain for Spanish uses. The Russian fur trade forced the Spanish to resume exploration and charting in the Pacific Northwest.