This post was written as part of my Dawn Saves Wildlife Ambassadorship. All opinions are my own.
Each year, during the last week in September zoos, aquariums, marine institutions, educators and people like you and I celebrate Sea Otter Awareness Week. Many people do not realize that these adorable furry creatures are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
In the 1800s, sea otters in California were hunted almost to extinction for their beautiful fur. There population was estimated at less than 100 individuals before being granted protection. Today, their population numbers between 2,500-3,000 individuals
They face a variety of ailments that put them at risk including shark bites, parasites, oil spills, malnutrition and maternal separation. Compounding these problems is the fact that Sea Otters are extremely difficult to rehabilitate. Located in Sausalito California, The Marine Mammal Center, partnered with the Monterey Bay Aquarium, works to rescue and rehabilitate sea otters.
Due to the complexity of behaviors young sea otters must learn from their mothers, The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s captive otters are trained as surrogate otter mothers and are able to teach abandoned pups complex behaviors such as feeding and grooming. Once the pups are healthy and capable of living on their own, they are released to the wild.
Celebrating Sea Otter Awareness Week: 10 Fun Facts About Sea Otters
- The otter is the furriest animal on the planet, with one million hairs per square inch (that is the size of a quarter). That is 10 human heads shaved to get just one square inch of an otter’s fur!
- Sea otters actually aren’t related to seals and sea lions. They are the largest member of the weasel family.
- The otter is the smallest marine mammal.
- Sea otters eat approximately 25-30% of their body weight daily
- Sea otters have no blubber, so they use their fur to stay warm. Otters will blow air under their fur to help insulate themselves.
- Life expectancy for males is 10-15 years and 15-20 years for females.
- Sea otters use tools to break open their food. They have been seen using rocks, and even ocean trash like bottles and cans, to crack open shellfish.
- A sea otters diet consist of shellfish (mussels, clams, crabs) and bottom-dwelling invertebrates like urchins, abalone and octopus.
- Sea Otters live in coastal regions of California including the kelp forest of Monterey and Big Sur.
- At birth Sea Otters weigh 3-5 pounds. Adult males will grow to weigh 60-80 pounds while females average 40-55 pounds.