To hunt prey, sea otters have been known to dive as deep as 320 feet; however, males mostly forage at depths of around 260 feet and females about 180 feet. 12 Facts about Otters for Sea Otter Awareness Week 1. Their nickname is the “sea beaver.” They keep warm because of their incredibly dense fur–with up to nearly 1,000,000 (one million) hairs per square inch! It ranges from 250,000 to a million hairs per square inch, according to the Defenders of Wildlife. The otters lie on their backs and pat the stones into the air, catching them and rolling them skilfully around their chests and necks. Their bodies are insulated by a thick fur coat and not by blubber as in other marine mammals. They typically use rocks and empty shells to feed on marine snails, crabs, sea urchins and mussels. They have very thick fur – near about 250,000 to one million hair per square inch. You can unsubscribe at any time. Try 3 issues of BBC Wildlife Magazine for just £5! Sea otters have a baggy patch of skin under their forelimbs which is used for storage. It’s not unusual to see a mother otter with her cubs, but families aside, it depends on the species. As a result, kelp abundance decreases and other marine species have less habitat. Female sea otters become sexually mature at about 3 or 4 years of age; males do so at 5 or 6 although most males don't establish a territory until they are 7 or 8. The males of this subspecies weigh around 65 pounds while females are 45 pounds in weight. Otters are part of the Mustelidae family, which is a family of carnivorous... 3. As top predators, sea otters are critical to maintaining the balance of nearshore ecosystems, such as kelp forests, embayments and estuaries. Sea otters are part of the weasel family. Their sleek, streamlined bodies are perfect for diving and swimming. However, fur is an inflexible insulation, so, when necessary, sea otters cool off by flapping their nearly-hairless rear flippers. Check out this amazing video of incredibly cute otters using rocks to break open their food: Sea otters have many ways of tugging on our heartstrings. 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. Because otters actually form attachments to certain stones – keeping them in an armpit when not in use – and have been known to retain their favourite ones throughout their lives, which is definitely one of our favourite sea otter facts! Indeed, research suggests that the sea otter’s bite force may not be sufficient to open the hardest-shelled prey items, hence their use of tools. However, they do spend most if not all of their lives in the water—Sea otters even give birth in the water. National Geographic: North American River Otter 3. This ancient religion considered otters to be the dogs of the river or sea and had strict rules forbidding the killing of otters. But that isn't an issue for the talented sea otter, which cracks open the shells by banging them with rocks. Sea otter rafts are segregated: Groups of between two and 1,000 otters are either all males or females and their young. Otter is a common name for a carnivorous mammal in the subfamily Lutrinae. Upon returning to the surface, they float on their backs, with the rock on the stomachs. Kelp provides shelter for sea otters and their pups and a variety of other marine organisms. Sea otters are the heaviest of the 13 otter species (giant otters are the longest). Other than natural predators, threats to sea otters include pollution, diseases, parasites, entanglement in marine debris, and boat strikes. Otters can be found in unpolluted waters all over the world in marshland, freshwater rivers, lakes, oceans and coastlines. Tips for spotting a sea otter. Their fur is the densest of any animal with about 100,000 hairs per square centimeter. Recreational juggling may be a playful way of learning how best to manipulate these tools. 2. Winter brings many challenges for Eurasian otters. Instead of blubber, the sea otter keeps itself warm with its dense coat. When sea otter populations are abundant, bald eagles prey primarily on fish and sea otter pups, but when sea otter populations declined in early the 2000s due to predation by an increased population of orcas, bald eagles preyed more on marine birds and had more offspring because of the higher caloric content of a seabird diet. If there is a decline in sea otters due to natural predation or other factors such as an oil spill, urchin populations explode. SeaOtters.com is dedicated to raising awareness about California’s threatened sea otters and inspiring the public to view wildlife responsibly. They sleep this way, often gathered in groups. Sea otters are the smallest fully marine mammal in the world: Males range in length between 3.9–4.9 feet, while females range between 3.3–4.6 feet. Here are four essential facts about sea otters: They’re the largest member of the weasel family Mustelidae, a family of fur-bearing mammals that … The females enter estrus again within several days to weeks after weaning. You can see why only 50 per cent of youngsters survive to see the spring. 4. This was stopped by the establishment of the International Fur Seal Treaty in 1911. With the giant otters of the Amazon growing up to 2m in length, you can imagine that they can swim pretty speedily when they want to! Facts about Sea otters June 23, 2017 June 23, 2017 admintag Being on the shore or resting in the water, sea otters take care of their chic fur for a long time, comb and smooth it. The infamous Exxon Valdez spill killed at least several hundred sea otters and affected the sea otter population in Prince William Sound for well over a decade, according to the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council. Some of the best known are the giant otter, the sea otter, the European otter, the Northern river otter among others. This thick fur keeps the animals warm ​but unfortunately has led to over-hunting by humans of many of these mustelid species. Sea otters have been found to play a pivotal role in the habitat and marine life that inhabit a kelp forest. They have furry bodies, whiskered faces, and a propensity to lay on their backs and float on the water, a behavior that humans perceive as evidence of fun-loving. Mating is polygynous—one male breeds with all the females in its breeding territory. Why do sea otters always a carry a stone with them? Many otters eat tough food, particularly sea otters that inhabit the shallow coastal waters of the northern Pacific. The female sea otters are smaller as they grow up to 4.7 feet in length and weigh up to 73 pounds. Not all otters use tools, but sea otters use them all the time. Sea otter is the heaviest and the second smallest aquatic member of weasel family. Floating on its back, it opens mollusks by smashing them on a stone balanced on its chest. To be fair, it’s more keepy-uppy than juggling, albeit keepy-uppy with two or three rocks at a time. The U. The answer varies by species and location. Swollen, murky waters also make swimming more difficult, forcing the animals onto busy roads. Sea otter facts There is one species of sea otter and three subspecies, the California or Southern sea otter is found off the central coast of California, the Northern sea otter is found in the waters off Alaska and Canada, and the common or Asian sea otter is found along coastlines of Japan and Russia. When oil coats a sea otter's fur, air can't get through and the sea otter can't clean it out. Get the Facts. The northern sea otters can weigh as much as 100 pounds. Already have an account with us? They have an interesting method of eating their prey. This makes up for its lack of blubber in the cold Pacific water. More surprisingly, sea otters are quite slow swimmers, although they are extremely agile. It is 40–65 inches (100–160 cm) long and weighs They're hungry animals! The length of a sea otter is four feet in California whereas in north sea, the height is slightly more than this. And going by a plethora of YouTube videos, we can now add juggling rocks to the list. Sea otters are provided a varied diet while in human care. The behaviour is likely to be linked to the animals’ use of rocks to detach prey from the seabed and break it open. An Analysis of Sea Otters and Kelp Forests, M.S., Resource Administration and Management, University of New Hampshire, B.S., Natural Resources, Cornell University. Hand-holding keeps the otters … Sea otters eat 25% of their body weight in food every day. A recent study has revealed that sea otter tooth enamel is much tougher than that of humans, helping to prevent their teeth from being chipped when cracking into the prey using their high bite force. Fully 10 percent of a sea otter's day is spent grooming its fur. A sea otter can consume up to 11kg of food every day to support its high metabolism – that’s about a quarter of its own body weight! If conditions are mild and wet, cubs can drown in flooded holts. Their teeth are strong enough to crunch open a clam shell or bite through a sea urchin's spines. When on water, these groups are called rafts, and the largest … Sea otters dive to rocky reefs, where they collect invertebrates and also a large rock. They can keep extra food in this spot, and also store a favorite rock for cracking the shell of their prey. Otters are adorable creatures that live both on land and in the water. Coastal otters frequent intertidal zones in search of blennies, eels, rockling, crabs and other crustaceans, and are easy to spot when on the shore. An Amazing Animal: 3 Sea Otter Facts. The most gregarious by far are sea otters, which are polygynous (males mate with multiple females). National Geographic: Sea Otter 2. Otter watching involves perseverance. But the sea otter’s habitat is unique, as they only live in shallow coastal waters in the North Pacific ocean. The ECOS Environmental Conservation Online System lists both northern and southern sea otters as threatened. A sea otter’s pelt is the thickest of any mammal. Sea otters are carnivores in the family Mustelidae—a group of animals that also includes terrestrial and semi-aquatic forms such as weasels, badgers, skunks, fishers, minks, and river otters. Most critically, they are a keystone species, meaning that their continued existence is required for several other species to survive. The sea otter (Enhydra lutris) is a marine mammal native to the coasts of the northern and eastern North Pacific Ocean. They have long whiskers, small ear flaps, and two small black eyes. Some of these animals have hard shells, which protect them from predators. Otters live in a wide variety of watery locations, from the mighty Amazon to the heart of Singapore. Only adult males establish territories, which they patrol during mating season to keep out other adult males. Healthy river systems in the UK may boast equally vibrant populations of otters as typical coastal habitat, but riparian otters are usually harder to spot due to high levels of human and dog disturbance, dense vegetation and the fact that it is more challenging to see otters hunting in fast moving rivers than on the sea. The sea otters once roamed across large swaths of their Pacific territory, but because their fur is highly desired, they were hunted to the brink of extinction. Many species of river-dwelling otter can swim quite quickly – they have to be strong swimmers to catch fish and fight the flow of the river. Under their arms, Sea otters have built in pockets. Because they are not exposed to predators, and do not have to forage for prey, they are provided with environmental enrichment in their habitat to keep them entertained. Before a mother otter leaves to forage for her pup, she wraps the pup in a piece of kelp to keep it anchored in one spot. Additional resources 1. Sea otters use rocks to remove prey from their shells. Sea otters often float at the water's surface, lying on their backs in a posture of serene repose. Generally, the male sea otters grows from 3.11 to 4.11 feet in length and weighs around 49 to 99 pounds. Scottish coastal otters, for example, which usually forage and hunt throughout the day in summer, instead seek prey more intensively in the mornings (though, interestingly, camera-traps set by the International Otter Survival Fund have revealed that they are in fact also active at night). And very impressive it is, too – they can even do it with their eyes closed. Although there is just one species of sea otter, there are three subspecies: Sea otters eat fish and marine invertebrates like crabs, urchins, sea stars, and abalone, as well as squid and octopuses. In fact, sea otters are one of the only mammals (apart from primates) to have developed tool use. A daily food intake of 15–20 per cent of body weight is key to survival, and otters adapt their patterns of predation and hunting behaviour to make the most of the prey available during these leaner months. North American sea otters are something of a recent success story after they were brought close to extinction in the 19th century, widely hunted for their fur. Sea otters are the only fully aquatic form of otters, but they share features with the others such as thick fur and short ears. What’s more, these coastal otters live their lives according to the tides, while river otters are usually most active at night. Like polar bears in the Arctic, sea otters are considered keystone species in their ecosystems, because they affect... 2. The species has no seasonal fur variation, so expends far more heat and energy swimming and diving in colder waters despite its dense, double-layered coat. To swim faster they use their webbed feet for propulsion and undulate their bodies. They prey on sea urchins that feed on kelp. Jennifer Kennedy, M.S., is an environmental educator specializing in marine life. Thanks! Sea otter, (Enhydra lutris), rare, completely marine otter of the northern Pacific, usually found in kelp beds. Winter brings many other dangers to otters. Kelp forests absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and a healthy forest can absorb as much as 12 times the amount of CO2 from the atmosphere than if it were subject to sea urchin predation. Sea otters reproduce sexually and that only occurs when the females are in estrus. While mothers and pups are usually solitary, sea otters can form social groups of up to a few dozen. Sea otters can grow between 34 and 60 inches in length. By entering your details, you are agreeing to Discover Wildlife terms and conditions and privacy policy. It is native to the coasts of the northern and eastern North Pacific Ocean. Research has shown that sea otters are vital to the health of carbon-absorbing kelp forests. Temperature balance is a significant challenge for sea otters, who lack the blubber of other marine mammals such as seals and walruses. Mint Images - Frans Lanting / Getty Images, Gulf of Maine Cod Project, NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries / National Archives, The Family Otariidae: Characteristics of Eared Seals and Sea Lions, 5 Environmental Consequences of Oil Spills, Harp Seal Facts (Pagophilus groenlandicus), Neritic Zone: Definition, Animal Life, and Characteristics, Bald Eagles and Sea Otters in the Aleutian Archipelago: Indirect Effects of Trophic Cascades, Northern Sea Otter (Enhydra lutris kenyoni), Southern sea otter (Enhydra lutris nereis), Do Trophic Cascades Affect the Storage and Flux of Atmospheric Carbon? 90% of all sea otters live on the coast of Alaska. You can learn all about them here – Otters of the World. FactsKing.com / Animal Facts / 8 Top Predators of Sea Otters that Eat Sea Otter Sea otters are sea mammals native to the eastern and northern parts of the North Pacific Ocean. Sea otters are social, and hang out together in groups called rafts. In environments where sea otter populations have been reintroduced, tall kelp forests are flourishing. It is made up of a waterproof top layer and a short underlayer, which can contain as many as one million hairs per square inch. Yet, sea otters do possess the fine, dense fur coats characteristic of the Mustelidae. You're now subscribed to our newsletter. Forget everything you thought you knew about otter species. Sea otters inhabit temperate coastal waters with rocky or soft sediment ocean bottom. Sea otters are foragers that eat mostly hard-shelled invertebrates, including sea urchins and a variety of clams, mussels, and crabs. 2. 2. Sea otters in the U.S. today are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Warm air trapped in a sea otter’s fur keeps them warm in chilly waters.When otters dive, they seal their ears and nose.The word otter comes from Old English and Indo European root words that were also used to create the English word for water.Otters have the densest fur in the world. Most sea otters measure less than 50 inches. Sea otters have several adaptations that allow them to live in a marine environment. The sea otter (Enhydra lutris) is rare, completely marine otter. Here are some surprising yet cute facts about them. They have webbed feet, water-repellent fur to keep them dry and warm, and nostrils and ears that close in the water. Thirteen different species of otter exist all around the world. Eurasian otters have staged a remarkable comeback in the UK, where they’re now once again present in every single county. Sea Otter Facts. Populations in Canada and California are now doing well. In appearance, sea otters are stouter and have larger rib cages, smaller tails and blunter muzzles than other species of otters. 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. Since then, sea otter populations have rebounded, but the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists the species as a whole as Endangered. The most gregarious by far are sea otters, which are polygynous (males mate with multiple females). Sea otters will eat virtually anything they can get their little paws on. Their fur is brown with shades of lighter tan and yellow on the heads of adults. The large hind feet are broad and flipperlike. Adults weigh up to 99 pounds and are the weasel family’s heaviest animals, but strangely the smallest of all marine mammals. Diet. Sea Otter Facts Description. While sea otter populations increased after legal protections were put in place, there have been recent declines in sea otters in the Aleutian Islands (thought to be from orca predation) and a decline or plateau in the populations in California. The energy demands of a sea otter mother increases by 17 per cent after giving birth. Sea otters, particularly mothers and pups, sometimes hold hands while floating on their backs. When on water, these groups are called rafts, and the largest one ever recorded contained up to 2,000 sea otters. They will use rocks to open food like clams, sea urchins and crabs. As you already know, Otters hold hands while eating and sleeping so they don’t lose each other. This inc… Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2020 – The People’s Choice Award, Namibian fishing laws cut seabird deaths by more than 90%, Tiger guide: species facts, how they hunt and where to see in the wild, Jaguar guide: how to identify, where to see and conservation. 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