Sea Otter

Enhydra lutris

three sea otters float on their backs in bright blue water, with their paws to their faces as if eating

Common Name: Sea Otter

Scientific Name: Enhydra lutris

Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family: Animalia, Chordata, Mammalia, Carnivora, Mustelidae

Diet: Carnivorous. Use kelp forest as a foraging ground and eat fish and invertebrates. Consume 20-25% of their body weight per day.

Habitat: Temperate coastal waters, kelp forests, near shore, rocky shore, estuaries, <40 m depths

Range: Fragmented, San Nicolas Island near Ventura, and near Monterey Bay, California, Destruction Island at Willoughby Rocks, Washington, through Straits of Juan de Fuca between Washington and British Columbia, British Columbia, and Alaska

Identification: Dense brown fur, short snout, rounded ears, hind paws are flat and webbed, ~39kg

Reproduction: Polygynous (one male with several female mates), can reproduce year round, pups are completely dependent on the mother and float on their stomachs, and wait above water while mom dives for food. The pups wean after about 6 months, with a bond lasting for 1 year.

Behavior: Break open shells and hard bodies with a rock they hold onto for dives, males protective of breeding territories. Otters require constant grooming to maintain their body temperature in the cold waters, preparing their fur before foraging and after eating, and they blow air into their fur as they roll to create an insulation layer against their skin.

Predators: Sharks, coyotes, eagles, and killer whales

Populations: Intense hunting and heavy predation nearly drove the species to extinction; fur was used as pelts for clothing in the 18th and 19th centuries. Removed ~50,000 otters in a few years, leaving about 100 otters. Isolated groups remained and have allowed for conservation efforts to bring the population number to slowly increase. By 2007, about 3000 otters were recorded in California.

a mature sea otter holds a fluffy young sea otter.
Citations:Allen, Sarah G., et al.2011.