Sea Otters: Nine Things That Might Surprise You! - Eagle Wing Tours {{ }} (2023)

They are furry, lively and require a lot of maintenance. They're also ridiculously - dare we say it - adorable. The appearance of a teddy bear and the boundless energy of sea otters can charm even the most hardened human observer.

We are always delighted to see a sea otter on our whale watching trips from Victoria, although they are not common in the Salish Sea. Whenever we visit Race Rocks Ecological Reserve, we look for a male sea otter named "Ollie" who has lived there for several years.

Sea Otters: Nine Things That Might Surprise You! - Eagle Wing Tours {{ }} (1)

Sea otters are the largest members of the mustelid family and have adapted well to life in the harsh North Pacific in many unique ways. They are also an essential part of a healthy coastal ecosystem. We know this because we almost lost them forever – and learned some valuable environmental lessons in the process.

Let's get to know each other better. Here are nine things about sea otters that might surprise you.

Sea Otters: Nine Things That Might Surprise You! - Eagle Wing Tours {{ }} (2)

1.They areNOFlussotter!

We mention this first because there seems to be some confusion here. People see an otter in the sea, so it must be a sea otter, right? Hmm, not likely.

Let there be no doubt, river otters can also live in the sea. In the Salish Sea are the elegant, delicate otters we often see swimming offshore, scurrying over rocks and boats, and crunching shellfish and crabs on the quay in front of us as we reach for our phone cameras.

Sea otters, on the other hand, eat, sleep, nurse, mate and give birth in the sea. They prefer sheltered bays and reefs along the rugged outer coast of North America. They rarely go ashore, and when they do, they are quite clumsy. Try walking on the big paddle-shaped back fins and you'll succeed.

Sea otters are also larger (up to 30 kg), have shorter and thicker tails and spend most of their lives floating on their backs, also while eating.

Sea Otters: Nine Things That Might Surprise You! - Eagle Wing Tours {{ }} (3)

2.These are floating furs

You might think that a warm-blooded animal living all its life in a very cold ocean would need to have an incredibly thick layer of fat to keep warm. But you are wrong. Sea otters do not have whiskers like seals and sea lions. Their superpower is fur - the thickest in the animal kingdom.

An adult sea otter has about 100,000 hairs per square inch, or about a billion hairs in total. For comparison, if we're lucky, we humans have 100,000 of them all over our heads!

This furry abundance is divided into two layers: a long upper coat and a soft, dense undercoat. The top layer is water repellent and the backing traps a layer of air for extra insulation. As long as the otter keeps its fur clean, its skin will never get wet!

Sea Otters: Nine Things That Might Surprise You! - Eagle Wing Tours {{ }} (4)

3. They are obsessive caregivers

And here is the problem. The sea otter's plush fur is its best weapon against hypothermia, but it is also its greatest vulnerability. If the fur becomes dirty or clogged with unpleasant substances, such as oil, the otter will get wet and die of cold.

For this reason, the sea otter spends a large part of the day grooming itself - rolling and somersaulting as it rubs, combs and squeezes every inch of fur with its paws and tongue. In this way, it traps air bubbles in the dense fibers of the fur, keeping the skin dry and helping it float like a cork.

How does an otter clean its fur on its back? Ridiculously simple. They are essentially otter skeletons in a fur sack. They can wallow in their own loose skin to get to hard-to-reach places. Their skin is so supple that their coat can stretch to almost 150 percent of their actual body length!

Sea Otters: Nine Things That Might Surprise You! - Eagle Wing Tours {{ }} (5)

4.They overeat

The thick fur is nice, but still not enough to keep the sea otter warm. To keep the internal furnace working, the otter needs to eat as much as 25 percent of its body weight every day!

And they eat - with zeal. Their Seafood Smörgasbord range includes over 100 species of marine invertebrates such as crabs, mussels, abalones, squid and sea urchins. Some otters eat so many sea urchins that their teeth, skulls and skeletons turn purple!

Sea otters have poor underwater vision, but that doesn't slow them down. Their extremely sensitive whiskers can detect prey hidden in the seaweed. With their powerful front paws, they search rocks and crevices and dig the seabed. If they find a lot of treats in one dive, it's not a problem. They stuff them like a shopping bag into the loose fur under the armpits and float to the surface!

Sea Otters: Nine Things That Might Surprise You! - Eagle Wing Tours {{ }} (6)

5.You are the user of the tool

Once back at the surface, the otter assumes its usual position - on its back - and uses its chest as a dinner plate to effortlessly digest almost anything on the menu.

For truly hardy crustaceans like clams and clams, sea otters have one more ace up their sleeve. They take a stone from the seabed, bring it to the surface and use it to break the mussel into edible pieces. They are among the few mammals known to use tools like humans.

They also use stones to pry abalones underwater, which is quite impressive considering that an abalone can exert a suction force equivalent to about 4,000 times its body weight. No problem here either. Holding a stone in both paws, the otter continuously smashes the side of an abalone shell at 45 beats in 15 seconds!

Sea Otters: Nine Things That Might Surprise You! - Eagle Wing Tours {{ }} (7)

6.They are quite sociable

For the sea otter, feeding is serious business, so it usually finds its food on its own. However, on some stretches of the coast they gather in large groups, the so-calledraftsrelax and socialize. Males and females usually swim separately. Rafts can be seen further along the west coast of Vancouver Island and the central coast of British Columbia. There were as many as 2,000 sea otters on the largest raft ever recorded!

A raft of sleeping sea otters is a sight to behold. They hover on their backs (of course!), with their hind flippers folded over their bellies and their front paws held in the air to conserve heat. Some rest with their front paws over their eyes, others with a beard on their chest. They often wrap themselves in seaweed to protect themselves from the current and swelling!

As populations increase, as is the case in British Columbia, male sea otters are the first to explore new prey-rich areas. Ollie, the Race Rocks sea otter, is one of those male explorers. He's found a great place to put down roots, and he's no doubt sure the girls will be back in the world soon. He's still waiting.

Sea Otters: Nine Things That Might Surprise You! - Eagle Wing Tours {{ }} (8)

7.They are great mothers

Yes, we left out the courtship part because, to put it mildly, there's no such thing as having an affair with a sea otter. Mating is not pleasant, at least not for the female, which often results in a bloody nose or something worse than an overzealous suitor. This is the dark side of the sea otter's life.

But let's not dwell on that. Instead, let's focus on the kitten-sized puff of fluff that appears a few months later. Mom will take care of this helpless bundle of fur for the next six to eight months - feeding, nurturing, nurturing, protecting and patiently teaching him how to be a successful sea otter. At the same time, it provides a comfortable bed on the chest!

Just so devoted, mommust leave the child on the surfacewhile she makes short dives to eat. He often wraps it in seaweed to keep it in place. This is a risky moment, because the puppy jumps up like a cork, helpless and impatient. And it's loud. Very loud. Thishe screams like a bansheeso mom can find him in the waves. These screams can be heard even for a kilometer!

How cute are sea otter puppies? To get to know "durableRescued by the Vancouver Aquarium in 2017.

take a look atmother and newborn puppyI'm at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Sea Otters: Nine Things That Might Surprise You! - Eagle Wing Tours {{ }} (9)

8.They came back from the abyss!

Remember that plush coat we talked about? Great for keeping sea otters warm. It's also been great to earn a lot of money since I turned 18Czi 19CzThis was quickly discovered by fur traders in the 19th century. Hundreds of thousands of sea otters have been killed throughout their range, which once stretched across the Pacific from Baja California to northern Japan.

By the time most countries protected sea otters in 1911, they had become extinct across much of their range. There used to be 300,000, today there are fewer than 2,000.

Even then, British Columbia sea otters had no respite. Occasional hunting continued, and the last was killed in 1931. Sea otters have been absent from the British Columbia coast for decades, with major ecological consequences (see below). This is one of the reasons why a total of 89 sea otters were driven from Alaska between 1969 and 1972 and abandoned in Checleset Bay on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

Since then, the descendants of Alaskan immigrants have done well. Today, more than 6,000 sea otters live in various locations along the outer and central coasts of British Columbia. Your assortment is constantly expanding. Ollie's sea otter is a native of Alaska, hailing either from further up Vancouver Island or from Washington State, where a similar transplant took place around the same time.

Sea Otters: Nine Things That Might Surprise You! - Eagle Wing Tours {{ }} (10)

9.THey, they're the guardians of the seaweed

Why go to all this trouble to bring in sea otters? It turns out that sea otters and kelp forests have an understanding. you need each other And coastal ecosystems need perfect harmony with each other.

It's a simple lesson in interconnectedness. When the sea otters disappeared, one of their favorite foods went wild - sea urchins. What do sea urchins prefer to eat? Seaweed. Without sea otters to guard them, sea urchins and other grazing invertebrates can transform thriving kelp forests into so-called underwater wastelandsbarren sea urchin.

Healthy kelp forests are a very good thing. It is a marine version of the rainforest, providing food and shelter for a wide variety of plants and animals, increasing diversity and providing richer habitats for fish (some of which we love to eat!). They also reduce coastal erosion and absorb significant amounts of harmful carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

As the sea otter population has recovered, the condition of the kelp forests has also improved. For this reason, sea otters are also called sea otterskey types– They have a huge, positive impact on their environment! This is another reason why we love sea otters so much!

We hope you book a trip with us soon and see one of these charismatic marine mammals for yourself!

A blog written by Valerie Shore, a marine naturalist Bei Eagle Wing Tours.

Published for the first time 26th house 2020

  • Email this post
  • Share on Facebook
  • Tweet this post


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Twana Towne Ret

Last Updated: 21/09/2023

Views: 5461

Rating: 4.3 / 5 (44 voted)

Reviews: 83% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Twana Towne Ret

Birthday: 1994-03-19

Address: Apt. 990 97439 Corwin Motorway, Port Eliseoburgh, NM 99144-2618

Phone: +5958753152963

Job: National Specialist

Hobby: Kayaking, Photography, Skydiving, Embroidery, Leather crafting, Orienteering, Cooking

Introduction: My name is Twana Towne Ret, I am a famous, talented, joyous, perfect, powerful, inquisitive, lovely person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.