(20 kg) in weight. Sea otters dive or play dead when they sense danger, or may signal alarm by raising a forepaw. This thick coat helps to maintain its body temperature in the cold ocean water. It can chew and swallow small mussels with their shells, whereas large mussel shells may be twisted apart. [147], The individuals within a particular area often differ in their foraging methods and prey types, and tend to follow the same patterns as their mothers. 1 Stats. [71] In the wild, sea otters live to a maximum age of 23 years,[24] with lifespans ranging from 10 to 15 years for males and 15–20 years for females. In the early 18th century, Russians began to hunt sea otters in the Kuril Islands[19] and sold them to the Chinese at Kyakhta. [16][49][55] Prevention of oil spills and preparation to rescue otters if one happens is a major focus for conservation efforts. Sea otters balance their prey on their chest and open it with a rock. Adult males are highly territorial during breeding season and will not permit other males to enter their territory. A major Ainu epic, the Kutune Shirka, tells the tale of wars and struggles over a golden sea otter. [52] Foraging resumes for a few hours in the afternoon and subsides before sunset, and a third foraging period may occur around midnight. [105] In 2008, Canada determined the status of sea otters to be "special concern". [24] It is the only marine animal capable of lifting and turning over rocks, which it often does with its front paws when searching for prey. Southern Sea Otter Webcam; Ocean Voyager Webcam; Underwater Puffin Webcam; Piranha Webcam; African Penguin Webcam; About Cold Water Quest. [83] Mothers have been known to carry their pups for days after the pups' deaths. Otter were also taken from San Benito Island, Cedros Island, and Isla Natividad in the Bay. Its diet includes prey species that are also valued by humans as food, leading to conflicts between sea otters and fisheries. [182] Although many factors affect shellfish stocks, sea otter predation can deplete a fishery to the point where it is no longer commercially viable. Our Behind the Seas Highlight Tour offer a backstage look at our most popular exhibits. [103] By 2006, though, the Alaska population had fallen to an estimated 73,000 animals. That … Their lives are usually longer in an aquarium or zoo setting. Eventually, sea otter populations became so depleted, commercial hunting was no longer viable. [47] Sea otter’s body is covered in a dense fur that constantly must be groomed to maintain its insulating properties and cleanliness; therefore, a sea otter will spend up to 10% of its time grooming. [24] For its size, the male otter's baculum is very large, massive and bent upwards, measuring 150 mm (5.9 in) in length and 15 mm (0.59 in) at the base. [37] At rest, all four limbs can be folded onto the torso to conserve heat, whereas on particularly hot days, the hind feet may be held underwater for cooling. Sea otters currently have stable populations in parts of the Russian east coast, Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, and California, with reports of recolonizations in Mexico and Japan. [8] The generic name Enhydra, derives from the Ancient Greek en/εν "in" and hydra/ύδρα "water",[17] meaning "in the water", and the Latin word lutris, meaning "otter".[18]. (1963) "Museum materials on the Aleuts". Southern sea otters can live to approximately 15 years for males and 16 years for females. [16], The small geographic ranges of the sea otter populations in California, Washington, and British Columbia mean a single major spill could be catastrophic for that state or province. Unlike most marine mammals, the sea otter's primary form of insulation is an exceptionally thick coat of fur, the densest in the animal kingdom. [136], For southern sea otters to be considered for removal from threatened species listing, the U.S. Leading mammalian predators of this species include orcas and sea lions, and bald eagles may grab pups from the surface of the water. Currently, the most stable and secure part of the sea otter's range is Russia. To manage the competition between sea otters and fisheries, it declared an "otter-free zone" stretching from Point Conception to the Mexican border. Major tooth wear is a cause of mortality in older otters. [87], There are several documented cases in which male sea otters have forcibly copulated with juvenile harbor seals, sometimes resulting in death. This male is thought to have originated from a colony in Washington, but disappeared after a coastal storm. [3] Kelp forests are extremely productive ecosystems. [121] Another group of twenty swam 74 miles (119 km) north to San Miguel Island, where they were captured and removed. [144], In a few northern areas, fish are also eaten. During the nineteenth century, the southern sea otter was known along the entire Pacific coast of North America, from Alaska to central Baja California. [26], Under each foreleg, the sea otter has a loose pouch of skin that extends across the chest. We use cookies to facilitate a user-friendly experience and track site usage. First, its use of rocks to dislodge prey and to open shells makes it one of the few mammal species to use tools. Pups remain dependent upon their mothers for approximately six months. [94] Individuals generally occupy a home range a few kilometres long, and remain there year-round. It is not known if this colony, which numbered about 300 animals in 2004, was founded by transplanted otters or was a remnant population that had gone undetected. It has a long, stout body with a short broad head and snout with thick whiskers on the cheeks. [56] Juveniles are typically independent at six to eight months, but a mother may be forced to abandon a pup if she cannot find enough food for it;[77] at the other extreme, a pup may nurse until it is almost adult size. [16] Sea otters can thoroughly remove abalone from an area except for specimens in deep rock crevices,[149] however, they never completely wipe out a prey species from an area. The southern subspecies lives along the central California coast from San Mateo County to Santa Barbara County. Surprisingly, though, the diets of individuals were more specialized in these areas than in areas where food was plentiful. [157] Thus began what is sometimes called the "Great Hunt", which would continue for another hundred years. [172], In the Aleutian Islands, a massive and unexpected disappearance of sea otters has occurred in recent decades. Archaeological evidence indicates that for thousands of years, indigenous peoples have hunted sea otters for food and fur. The otter has a set of canine teeth as well. Sea otters spend most of their time near the shore. [55] It is the only marine mammal that catches fish with its forepaws rather than with its teeth. Enjoy new thrills, adventures and fish-filled fun each time you visit, Support our work towards research and conservation, Special Events – Covid-19 Safety Measures, Sea urchins, snails, clams, abalone, mussels, crabs, scallops, fish, barnacles, octopus, worms and squid, Northern Pacific Ocean and southern Bering Sea, Marine habitat with rocky or muddy sea bottoms and kelp forests. [65] Females coo when they are apparently content; males may grunt instead. The southern sea otter lives in shallower waters off the rocky Pacific coasts, staying inside and very close to large kelp beds, which provide protection and support large numbers of shellfish. It also uses a flap of skin located under each foreleg to hold food temporarily while hunting until it returns to the surface. [174] Unusually high mortality rates amongst adult and subadult otters, particularly females, have been reported. Hunting records researched by historian Adele Ogden place the westernmost limit of the hunting grounds off the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido and the easternmost limit off Punta Morro Hermosa about 21.5 miles (34.6 km) south of Punta Eugenia, Baja California's westernmost headland in Mexico. [100] By 2013, this population exceeded 1,100 individuals, was increasing at an estimated 12.6% annual rate, and its range included Aristazabal Island, and Milbanke Sound south to Calvert Island. [43], An adult's 32 teeth, particularly the molars, are flattened and rounded for crushing rather than cutting food. [145] The fish species were usually bottom-dwelling and sedentary or sluggish forms, such as Hemilepidotus hemilepidotus and family Tetraodontidae. [7], Fossil evidence indicates the Enhydra lineage became isolated in the North Pacific approximately 2 million years ago, giving rise to the now-extinct Enhydra macrodonta and the modern sea otter, Enhydra lutris. Dive into the world of dolphins during our awe-inspiring and educational dolphin presentation. Sea otters play a vital role in the health and stability of the nearshore marine ecosystem as a keystone species; Sea otter fur is the densest of any mammal at about 1 million hairs per square inch (We have 100,000 hairs on our entire head). Sea otters have been credited with contributing to the kelp harvesting industry via their well-known role in controlling sea urchin populations; kelp is used in the production of diverse food and pharmaceutical products. Delayed implantation periods in sea otters depend on individual and geographic variation. Southern Sea Otter Festival Pavilion KF3 Nexon Game: For voice lines, see Southern Sea Otter/KF3/Voice. The sea otter has a metabolic rate two or three times that of comparatively sized terrestrial mammals. Between 1803 and 1846, 72 American ships were involved in the otter hunt in California, harvesting an estimated 40,000 skins and tails, compared to only 13 ships of the Russian-American Company, which reported 5,696 otter skins taken between 1806 and 1846. Scientific Name: Enhydra Lutris. [5] Male sea otters usually weigh 22 to 45 kg (49 to 99 lb) and are 1.2 to 1.5 m (3 ft 11 in to 4 ft 11 in) in length, though specimens up to 54 kg (119 lb) have been recorded. [142][143] Its prey ranges in size from tiny limpets and crabs to giant octopuses. [188] The sea otter is a recurring figure in Ainu folklore. The digits on its front paws are separated and covered, similar to mittens. [32] The fifth digit on each hind foot is longest, facilitating swimming while on its back, but making walking difficult. Three subspecies of the sea otter are recognized with distinct geographical distributions. Southern sea otters (Enhydra lutris nereis), also known as California sea otters, were listed as threatened in 1977 under the Endangered Species Act. From 1969 to 1972, 89 sea otters were flown or shipped from Alaska to the west coast of Vancouver Island. [107][108], In 1969 and 1970, 59 sea otters were translocated from Amchitka Island to Washington, and released near La Push and Point Grenville. (. [84] A captive male sired offspring at age 19. Genetic analysis of most of these animals were consistent with California, i.e. Their habitats also need the root systems of mature trees, as well as fallen tree debris. Above: Aleut carving of a sea otter hunt on a whalebone spear. To the surprise of biologists, the majority of the San Nicolas sea otters swam back to the mainland. [55] The sea otter may also pluck snails and other organisms from kelp and dig deep into underwater mud for clams. [166] When Russia sold Alaska to the United States in 1867, the Alaska population had recovered to over 100,000, but Americans resumed hunting and quickly extirpated the sea otter again. Sea Otter Sea otters are a keystone species, meaning their role in their environment has a greater effect than other species. [130] In response to recovery efforts, the population climbed steadily from the mid-20th century through the early 2000s, then remained relatively flat from 2005 to 2014 at just under 3,000. 41 years later and counting, their conservation status remains unchanged and their future uncertain. M O L L U S K S. Habitat: Coasts of the Northern & Eastern … The most southerly of the three sea otter subspecies, the southern sea otter, once populated the coast all the way south into Baja California before being hunted down to a remnant few by the turn of the century. [74], Females become sexually mature at around three or four years of age and males at around five; however, males often do not successfully breed until a few years later. [139], Historian Adele Ogden described sea otters are particularly abundant in "Lower California", now the Baja California Peninsula, where "seven bays...were main centers". The fur trade that began in the 1740s reduced the sea otter's numbers to an estimated 1,000 to 2,000 members in 13 colonies. [111] Two sea otters were observed about one mile north of the Winchuck River off the Southern Oregon coast on July 13, 2020. Climate Change – KQED/QUEST (2014)", "Aquatic Species at Risk – Species Profile – Sea Otter", "Parasite Shed in Cat Feces Kills Sea Otters – California Sea Grant", "Aleutian Sea Otter population falls 70% in eight years", National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, "National Marine Sanctuaries Regulations", "Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary History", "Historical Ecology of Late Holocene Sea Otters (, "Seattle Aquarium's Youngest Sea Otter Lootas Becomes a Mom", "Vancouver Aquarium's oldest sea otter, Nyac, passes", De Bestiis Marinis, or, The Beasts of the Sea (1751), Precipice of Survival: The Southern Sea Otter, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Sea_otter&oldid=998917440, Short description is different from Wikidata, Wikipedia indefinitely move-protected pages, Articles with unsourced statements from July 2020, Articles containing potentially dated statements from January 2015, All articles containing potentially dated statements, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, This page was last edited on 7 January 2021, at 16:59. Its claws are retractable and the front paws have rough pads. [145] However, south of Alaska on the North American coast, fish are a negligible or extremely minor part of the sea otter's diet. [115], Sea otters were once numerous in San Francisco Bay. [11] In some respects, though, the sea otter is more fully adapted to water than pinnipeds, which must haul out on land or ice to give birth. There was some contraction from the northern (now Pigeon Point) and southern limits of the sea otter's range during the end of this period, circumstantially related to an increase in lethal shark bites, raising concerns that the population had reached a plateau. [132] Recently, a toxin called microcystin, produced by a type of cyanobacteria (Microcystis), seems to be concentrated in the shellfish the otters eat, poisoning them. The Russians initially traded with the Aleuts inhabitants of these islands for otter pelts, but later enslaved the Aleuts, taking women and children hostage and torturing and killing Aleut men to force them to hunt. The sea otter is the heaviest (the giant otter is longer, but significantly slimmer) member of the family Mustelidae,[3] a diverse group that includes the 13 otter species and terrestrial animals such as weasels, badgers, and minks. [130][131] As of spring 2010, the northern boundary had moved from about Tunitas Creek to a point 2 km southeast of Pigeon Point, and the southern boundary has moved from approximately Coal Oil Point to Gaviota State Park. In the 1980s, the area was home to an estimated 55,000 to 100,000 sea otters, but the population fell to around 6,000 animals by 2000. The southern sea otter, Enhydra lutris nereis, continues its climb toward recovery, according to the annual count released today by the U.S. Geological Survey and partners. [168] So few remained, perhaps only 1,000–2,000 individuals in the wild, that many believed the species would become extinct. Southern sea otter has a high metabolic rate that is about 2.5 times greater than that of terrestrial animals. Sea otter pup can emit a strong high-pitched call when in distress or separated from its mother. The Alaskan subspecies have predators on land such as coyotes or brown bears. JAYASRI GM, 2 days ago 0 6 min read 7 . [24] Releasing an abalone, which can cling to rock with a force equal to 4,000 times its own body weight, requires multiple dives. The sea otter was formerly sometimes referred to as the "sea beaver",[19] being the marine fur-bearer similar in commercial value to the terrestrial beaver. Fish and Wildlife Service Proposes that Southern Sea Otter Translocation Program be Terminated", "Service Proposes to End Southern Sea Otter Translocation Program", "Rare sighting of sea otter off Laguna Beach", "U.S. will let otters roam along Southern California coastline", "California's Sea Otter Numbers Continue Slow Climb", "California Sea Otter Numbers Drop Again", "Spring 2010 Mainland California Sea Otter Survey Results", "Another deadly challenge for the sea otter", "Evidence for a Novel Marine Harmful Algal Bloom: Cyanotoxin (Microcystin) Transfer from Land to Sea Otters", Spring 2014 California Sea Otter Census Results, "Otters vs. [3] At birth, the eyes are open, ten teeth are visible, and the pup has a thick coat of baby fur. Forepaws are smaller with retractable claws and are used to groom, eat, and hold tools for breaking open prey. [167] Prices rose as the species became rare. On the hind paws, the pads are reduced and may be absent, except on the toes. [55][182] Shellfish declines have also occurred in many parts of the North American Pacific coast that do not have sea otters, and conservationists sometimes note the existence of large concentrations of shellfish on the coast is a recent development resulting from the fur trade's near-extirpation of the sea otter. [76] A pup, with guidance from its mother, practices swimming and diving for several weeks before it is able to reach the sea floor. [36] When at the surface, it usually floats on its back and moves by sculling its feet and tail from side to side. [183] Although human divers harvest red sea urchins both for food and to protect the kelp, sea otters hunt more sea urchin species and are more consistently effective in controlling these populations. Contents. [98], Alaska is the heartland of the sea otter's range. It is unique among the mustelids in not making dens or burrows, in having no functional anal scent glands,[4] and in being able to live its entire life without leaving the water. Although the pup ratio is about 50:50 males to females, there is a higher mortality rate among male pups. It is believed that a sea otter will wrap itself with kelp before sleeping at the surface to keep itself from drifting away. [140] However, male and female otters have been confirmed by scientists off shores of the Baja Peninsula in a 2014 study, who hypothesize that otter dispersed there beginning in 2005. Both items are on display at the Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography in St. Petersburg. Under Aleksandr I, the administration of the merchant-controlled company was transferred to the Imperial Navy, largely due to the alarming reports by naval officers of native abuse; in 1818, the indigenous peoples of Alaska were granted civil rights equivalent to a townsman status in the Russian Empire. [27] The fur consists of long, waterproof guard hairs and short underfur; the guard hairs keep the dense underfur layer dry. While sea otters have limited mobility on land they will typically spend their whole life in the water. When their fur is soaked with oil, it loses its ability to retain air, and the animals can quickly die from hypothermia. Northern sea otters possess longer mandibles (lower jaws) while southern sea otters have longer rostrums and smaller teeth. [95], The sea otter population is thought to have once been 150,000 to 300,000,[19] stretching in an arc across the North Pacific from northern Japan to the central Baja California Peninsula in Mexico. Of these, about 19,000 are at the Kurils, 2,000 to 3,500 at Kamchatka and another 5,000 to 5,500 at the Commander Islands. ©2021 Georgia Aquarium 225 Baker Street Northwest, Atlanta, GA. Georgia Aquarium is a nonprofit committed to inspiring awareness and preservation of our ocean and aquatic animals worldwide. Many Aleuts were either murdered by the Russians or died from diseases the hunters had introduced. As word spread, people from all over Europe and North America began to arrive in the Pacific Northwest to trade for sea otter furs. Great for desktop, mobile, Android or iPhone backgrounds or a Facebook cover photo. The southern sea otter is found along the California coast and share the basic physical characteristics of all sea otters, but they are the smallest of the subspecies. [171] Describing the public sympathy for sea otters that developed from media coverage of the event, a U.S. [59] The liver, kidneys, and lungs of sea otters also become damaged after they inhale oil or ingest it when grooming. [52] Females with pups appear to be more inclined to feed at night. [98] By 2004, sea otters had repopulated all of their former habitat in these areas, with an estimated total population of about 27,000. [53], Sea otters spend much of their time grooming, which consists of cleaning the fur, untangling knots, removing loose fur, rubbing the fur to squeeze out water and introduce air, and blowing air into the fur. [71] Twins occur in 2% of births; however, usually only one pup survives. [189] These links have been associated with the many human-like behavioral features of the sea otter, including apparent playfulness, strong mother-pup bonds and tool use, yielding to ready anthropomorphism. Fish and Wildlife Service spokesperson wrote: As a playful, photogenic, innocent bystander, the sea otter epitomized the role of victim ... cute and frolicsome sea otters suddenly in distress, oiled, frightened, and dying, in a losing battle with the oil. [63] During this time, males patrol the boundaries of their territories to exclude other males,[63] although actual fighting is rare. Southern sea otter is not a social animal as are other otter species and has been known to live alone. Southern Sea Otter . It could have traveled to the state from either California or Washington. [162], Other nations joined in the hunt in the south. [16] However, because of the species' reputation for depleting shellfish resources, advocates for commercial, recreational, and subsistence shellfish harvesting have often opposed allowing the sea otter's range to increase, and there have even been instances of fishermen and others illegally killing them. [179][180], Some of the sea otter's preferred prey species, particularly abalone, clams, and crabs, are also food sources for humans. [173] The most widely accepted, but still controversial, hypothesis is that killer whales have been eating the otters. In this pouch (preferentially the left one), the animal stores collected food to bring to the surface. Increasing the size and range of sea otter populations would also reduce the risk of an oil spill wiping out a population. Russia was also exploring the far northern Pacific at this time, and sent Vitus Bering to map the Arctic coast and find routes from Siberia to North America. [55], The sea otter hunts in short dives, often to the sea floor. The fur of the sea otter is the densest of all mammals at about 350,000 to 1,000,000 hairs per square inch, compared to dogs that only have 1,000 to 60,000 hairs per square inch. Its range extended across the Aleutians to the Siberian … Now, the only indigenous population of Southern Sea Otters resides along the coast of central California. To eat large sea urchins, which are mostly covered with spines, the sea otter bites through the underside where the spines are shortest, and licks the soft contents out of the urchin's shell. Like other members of this family, they have very thick fur. The southernmost limit was Punta Morro Hermoso about 21.5 miles (34.6 km) south of Punta Eugenia, in turn a headland at the southwestern end of Sebastián Vizcaíno Bay, on the west coast of the Baja Peninsula. However, this translocation effort failed and otters soon again disappeared from the state. [165] In 1812, the Russians founded an agricultural settlement at what is now Fort Ross in northern California, as their southern headquarters. [58] The southern river otter can be found in marine, freshwater, and terrestrial habitats, but are mostly found in freshwater lakes and rivers having a significant amount of dense vegetation, especially along the shorelines, which must be present to use as cover. Hatch, David R. (2002) Elakha: Sea Otters, Native People, and European Colonization in the North Pacific. The southern sea otter is the smallest marine mammal in North America at up to 4 feet (1.2 m) long and up to 50 pounds (23 kg) for females and 70 pounds (32 kg) for males. [20] The Asian sea otter is the largest subspecies and has a slightly wider skull and shorter nasal bones than both other subspecies. If you continue to use this site, you consent to our use of cookies. Sea otters spend a majority of their day eating, sleeping, and grooming. He brings more than 30 years of professional marine mammal management, husbandry, rehabilitation, and training experience to the Aquarium. North Pacific areas that do not have sea otters often turn into urchin barrens, with abundant sea urchins and no kelp forest. [157] They returned to Siberia, having killed nearly 1,000 sea otters, and were able to command high prices for the pelts. [89], Sea otters live in coastal waters 15 to 23 metres (50 to 75 ft) deep,[90] and usually stay within a kilometre (⅔ mi) of the shore. Urban runoff transporting cat feces into the ocean brings Toxoplasma gondii, an obligate parasite of felids, which has killed sea otters. It has a long, stout body with a short broad head and snout with thick whiskers on the cheeks. [125] Sea otters were observed twice in Southern California in 2011, once near Laguna Beach and once at Zuniga Point Jetty, near San Diego. To pry an abalone off its rock, it hammers the abalone shell using a large stone, with observed rates of 45 blows in 15 seconds. In the eastern Pacific Ocean, E. l. kenyoni, the northern sea otter, is found from Alaska's Aleutian Islands to Oregon and E. l. nereis, the southern sea otter, is native to central and southern California. And fisheries recovery began to fluctuate or decline in the water the holdfast or base of young kelp, the! Swim as close as six feet off shore along the North American coast south of Alaska and... Separate colony was discovered in the sea floor ) herbivores, particularly sea graze... Be `` special concern '' the water danger, or may signal alarm by raising a forepaw is. Only marine mammal in the water frequently, apparently to wash food scraps from their fur shellfish and clams and... Is California, great white shark habitat alongside our beluga habitat alongside our whale... Such as sea otters typically have a lifespan between 15 and 20 years for clams ; males grunt. 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Marine “ fissiped ”, the sea otter to spread its webbing wider when swimming 15 years for.! ): 14-35kg ( New born ): 14-35kg ( New born ): 14-35kg New! Are typically prohibited from high quality, high res, hd, widescreen and!