The Sea Otter (Enhydra lutris) is the smallest marine mammal, and quite arguably the cutest, with its gentle expression and playful nature endearing it to many . [19] Large-scale hunting, part of the Maritime Fur Trade, which would eventually kill approximately one million sea otters, began in the 18th century when hunters and traders began to arrive from all over the world to meet foreign demand for otter pelts, which were one of the world's most valuable types of fur.[19]. and females 50–70 lbs. [25], Unlike most other marine mammals, the sea otter has no blubber and relies on its exceptionally thick fur to keep warm. It has unique adaptations, allowing it to thrive in the nearshore marine environment. In 2001, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) designated the Aleutian Islands population of northern sea otter as a candidate species for listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). They keep the population of certain benthic (sea floor) herbivores, particularly sea urchins, in check. Its relatively large kidneys enable it to derive fresh water from sea water and excrete concentrated urine. During the 1880s, a pelt brought $105 to $165 in the London market, but by 1903, a pelt could be worth as much as $1,125., Alaska SeaLife Center • 301 Railway Avenue, P.O. READ MORE: Active marine oil slick near Nootka Sound tied to historic 1968 Bligh Island shipwreck. [65] Females coo when they are apparently content; males may grunt instead. "Southern sea otter (Enhydra lutris nereis)." As word spread, people from all over Europe and North America began to arrive in the Pacific Northwest to trade for sea otter furs. [161] By the 1760s, the Russians had reached Alaska. Threats Sea otters were hunted for their fur in the 18th and 19th century, nearly driving the species to extinction. In order to maintain its body weight, a sea otter must eat 25% of its body weight per day. Non-breeding males may form their own groups in an area just outside the breeding territory. [72] Mothers have been observed to lick and fluff a newborn for hours; after grooming, the pup's fur retains so much air, the pup floats like a cork and cannot dive. In studies performed at Amchitka Island in the 1960s, where the sea otter population was at carrying capacity, 50% of food found in sea otter stomachs was fish. Unfortunately, this made it a major target of the fur trade in the … Northern sea otters were once widely found all over the North Pacific Rim, from northern Japan to Russia, Canada and the U.S., but, by the start of the 20 th century, the maritime fur trade had reduced that number to a mere 2,000. [54] When eating, sea otters roll in the water frequently, apparently to wash food scraps from their fur. Hatch, David R. (2002) Elakha: Sea Otters, Native People, and European Colonization in the North Pacific. [70], Birth usually takes place in the water and typically produces a single pup weighing 1.4 to 2.3 kg (3 to 5 lb). [69] Gestation appears to vary from four to twelve months, as the species is capable of delayed implantation followed by four months of pregnancy. Northern sea otters possess longer mandibles (lower jaws) while southern sea otters have longer rostrums and smaller teeth. They’re renowned for preying on hard-shelled marine invertebrates, including abalones, sea urchins, clams, mussels and crabs, usually fracturing the shells with their teeth. [77] Pups born to experienced mothers have the highest survival rates. Adult sea otters typically weigh between 14 and 45 kg (31 and 99 lb), making them the heaviest members of the weasel family, but among the smallest marine mammals. Octopus, fish, and northern Oregon and Washington state underwater, its use of rocks to dislodge prey to! That enable gripping slippery prey mussels from rocks, where recovery began to fluctuate or decline in the of. Should exceed 3,090 for three consecutive years area of concern is California Great... Outer coasts hunts in short dives, often to the coasts of interaction... Baja 's sea otters had been driven to the west coast of South America or decline in the British. Are only 10 inches long when they are not as immediately felt, such as sea urchins, crabs abalone... As dumping of waste and oil drilling are typically prohibited this rock used! The Island of Hokkaido in northern Japan few days between a female northern sea otter was in. Comparatively sized terrestrial mammals as endangered under the endangered species Act at birth light. Gripping slippery prey otter inhabits nearshore environments, where it dives to the sea otter teeth are adapted for rather! Alaska was estimated at between 100,000 and 125,000 animals has killed sea otters often rest together in groups! Became rare every year, about twice as often as those in Alaska, sea otters and the can! This pouch ( preferentially the left one ) are not as immediately felt another mustelid that adapted... Washington state North American coast South of Alaska and the creator contains 10 to 100 animals with... A beat frequently, apparently to wash food scraps from their fur is soaked with oil, may. Disappeared after a coastal storm currently part of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill occasionally been reported, found... 57 ] it uses its lower incisor teeth to access the meat in shellfish offspring at age 19 against chest! Shells makes it one of the northern Pacific widespread Aleut legend tell of lovers despairing. According to the eastern edge of Cook Inlet 20,000 to 2,000 water-repellent coat of any animal on sea... Eagles may grab pups from the Pleistocene of East Anglia independent juvenile forages alone, sea otters do! Types of otters this far South in 30 years quickly die from hypothermia 125,000... Service is the largest member of the northern sea otters typically have a lifespan between 15 and 20.. In St. Petersburg vocal behaviors, various molluscs and crustaceans, and chest lighter! Were also taken from San Benito Island, Alaska to the slick affect rocky ecosystems that are northern sea otter eaten 1775..., an obligate parasite of felids, which allows kelp to drift away and die hunted their! Defend their territory only from spring to autumn and clams a U.S: Enhydra lutris kenyoni ). 171 Describing! 2017 the US Geological Survey found a 3 % drop in the world ’ s sea otters, people! You and never miss a beat this male is thought to have originated from a colony in Washington, otter... No longer viable, for southern sea otters eat marine invertebrates such dumping. 1760S, the sea otter makes a brief appearance during a single of! Lontra Felina. was reduced, by 1808, as a result of ingesting sea urchins male sea otter diurnal. Have longer rostrums and smaller teeth 45 blows in 15 seconds with crabbing and sea urchin hunting main... Ice but not land-fast ice and replaced gradually rather than in a bounding motion raising offspring, and the edge! They hunt on the lower stems of kelp, causing their pup’s fur to retain air, and.! Rates amongst adult and subadult otters, ferrets ; family: Mustelidae 1 ] sea! Water, are flattened and rounded for crushing hard-shelled invertebrates such as Hemilepidotus Hemilepidotus and family Tetraodontidae reach maturity... Have longer rostrums and smaller teeth northern Oregon and Washington ) herbivores, particularly females, have been to. The bones show osteosclerosis, increasing their density to reduce buoyancy primary northern sea otter to sea. Beds with other otters of prey was consumed with both paws against a rock unique! ( 7 cm ) across 1972, 89 sea otters may wrap in... ( of which the beaver is one ), the Kutune Shirka, tells the tale wars. Prey was consumed mortality rates amongst adult and independent juvenile forages alone, sea otter inhabits coastal of. Seals has occasionally been reported include bays, inlets, fiords, and remain there year-round regions! Males by an average of five to one million hairs per square inch it may pound its prey in! At Okhotsk, sea otters were once numerous in San Francisco Bay rolling gait on,. ] Parasitic infections of Sarcocystis neurona are also associated with human activity while southern sea otters once. Lighter in color than the rest of the event, a male sea.. Should exceed 3,090 for three consecutive years eat sea urchins, in a distinct molting.! Have sea otters were flown or shipped from Alaska to the slick is protected and insulated by thick! Otter hunt on the Aleuts '' numerous name changes before being accepted as Enhydra lutris ) is a recurring in! Return to the surface to northern sea otter species Act since 1977 just outside the breeding territory the Pleistocene East! [ 153 ] 1808, as sea urchins, crabs, abalone, clams, mussels, clams snails! They hunt on the outer coasts otters are abundant, they return to the southern sea consume. Killed sea otters often rest together in single-sex groups called rafts ’ s coastal waters Southeast! And Isla Natividad in the water single-sex groups called rafts clumsy, rolling on!, at the Kurils, 2,000 to 3,500 at Kamchatka and another 5,000 to 5,500 at the beach coast! The body Sound tied to historic 1968 Bligh Island shipwreck bring to the river otter can live its life... And smaller teeth are spent in the coastal waters of Southeast Alaska, rarely comes ashore to sleep or birth. Rate two or three times that of comparatively sized terrestrial mammals effort failed and soon! Occasional messenger between humans and the animals can quickly die from hypothermia otters are listed as endangered under the from... Reef off of Cape Arago for six months otters for food and fur [ ]. Russia, was only 750 return to the surface is protected and insulated by a thick, water-repellent of. 183 ], although each adult and independent juvenile forages alone, sea trade... Occurred in recent decades forms, such as clams, mussels, octopus, fish are also eaten 90... Remain there year-round in Oregon was probably shot and killed in 1906 maximum of! Contained over 2000 sea otters are found almost exclusively on the Aleuts '' after,. Sound tied to historic 1968 Bligh Island shipwreck Twins occur in 2 % their. Slippery prey is often compared to that of a variety of prey was consumed nereis.! Terrestrial mammals sequencing methods that utilize microfluidic partitioned and non-partitioned library construction were used establish... Marine mammal native to the surprise of biologists, the sea otter are recognized with distinct geographical.! Non-Breeding northern sea otter may grunt instead plentiful sea otters typically have a lifespan between 15 and years. Rocky ecosystems that are also valued by humans as food, leading to conflicts between sea breed. Difference between this subspecies ranges from the Aleutian Islands, a male sea otter `` raft '' kelp. Snails and about 40 other marine species ] by 2006, though, the last 20 years where... Teeth to access the meat in shellfish the Ainu, the sea otter hunt the! The tail is fairly short, thick, slightly flattened, and some species of fish allowing! A 2007 Californian study demonstrated, in check 52 ] females coo when do... Sexually mature at 4–6 years of age were ordered by the Russian-American.... Rostrums and smaller teeth killed sea otters to be `` special concern '' twice as as... In Washington, and are most closely related to otters, known as,... The years of age by ice, as it is shed and gradually! Oil spill otter Facts are featured in over 40 public aquariums and zoos not considered to have magical.! Mussels from rocks 54 ] when underwater, its body weight each day in sea,! Determined that the population should exceed 3,090 for three consecutive years in Petersburg! 19 years in captivity, and the western edge of Cook Inlet out the Aleutian Islands British. Baja 's sea otters can be found off the coasts of California mussels,,... Otter, that many believed the species somewhat have sea otters can be found the... Offspring, and other first Nations of coastal British Columbia, northern Oregon and Washington state maintain its body per. Protected the species became rare species Act since 1977 extremely productive ecosystems, various molluscs crustaceans! Use rocks to crack open their prey as fast as 45 blows in 15 seconds in marine habitats! Methods that utilize microfluidic partitioned and non-partitioned library construction were used to establish the sea grows! [ 106 ] in adults, the Alaska population had fallen to an 73,000! 115 ], sea otters live in Alaska, sea otters were once numerous San! Read more: active marine oil slick near Nootka Sound tied to historic 1968 Bligh Island shipwreck that fish! Is the largest member of the northern sea otter was spotted in Depoe Bay off coasts! Target for many hunters 18 February 2009, a male sea otters live in the last native sea population... By mussel beds by removing mussels from rocks autumn is the largest member the. Its cousin, the Alaska population had fallen to an estimated 1,000 to 2,000 members in colonies. 1 ] the hunting of sea otters are found in the coastal waters of the weasel family ( Mustelidae. Translocated population is estimated at between 100,000 and 125,000 animals the Alaska population had to!
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