[129], Although the southern sea otter's range has continuously expanded from the remnant population of about 50 individuals in Big Sur since protection in 1911, from 2007 to 2010, the otter population and its range contracted and since 2010 has made little progress. [55] It is the only marine mammal that catches fish with its forepaws rather than with its teeth. Sea urchins graze on the lower stems of kelp, causing the kelp to drift away and die. Sea otters now have legal protection throughout much of their range, and there has been some recovery in recent decades. [12] The full genome of the northern sea otter (Enhydra lutris kenyoni) was sequenced in 2017 and may allow for examination of the sea otter's evolutionary divergence from terrestrial mustelids. When the mothers dive for food, they tie their babies into kelp to ensure that they will not float away. [65] Females coo when they are apparently content; males may grunt instead. Roger Bale’s Sea Otter Roger’s 25% scale Supermarine Sea Otter was completed in March 2000. Leading mammalian predators of this species include orcas and sea lions, and bald eagles may grab pups from the surface of the water. [174] The round, expressive face and soft, furry body of the sea otter are depicted in a wide variety of souvenirs, postcards, clothing, and stuffed toys. A sea otter! They are not at the top of the food web, however, and are eaten by orcas, great white sharks and other large predators. Sea otters have the densest fur of all mammals with up to 1 million hairs per square inch. This population increased to over 5,600 in 2013 with an estimated annual growth rate of 7.2%, and their range on the island's west coast extended north to Cape Scott and across the Queen Charlotte Strait to the Broughton Archipelago and south to Clayoquot Sound and Tofino. Sea otters dive to rocky reefs, where they collect invertebrates and also a large rock. In 1799, Emperor Paul I consolidated the rival fur-hunting companies into the Russian-American Company, granting it an imperial charter and protection, and a monopoly over trade rights and territorial acquisition. Then, a century ago, hunting for furs drove sea otter numbers down to fewer than 2,000 worldwide. No. It must eat an estimated 25 to 38% of its own body weight in food each day to burn the calories necessary to counteract the loss of heat due to the cold water environment. [104], Another area of concern is California, where recovery began to fluctuate or decline in the late 1990s. [181] Scientists agree that sea otters and abalone fisheries cannot exist in the same area,[181] and the same is likely true for certain other types of shellfish, as well. It is the smallest marine mammal in North America and is about 4 feet ... otters was discovered off the coast of Big Sur, California. Sea otters are members of the weasel family (Mustelidae). Sea Otter Conservation. [54] When eating, sea otters roll in the water frequently, apparently to wash food scraps from their fur. [16] Originally named Lutra marina, it underwent numerous name changes before being accepted as Enhydra lutris in 1922. A sea otter startled onlookers recently when it surfaced off the coast of California with a small horn shark clasped in its forearms. [145] The fish species were usually bottom-dwelling and sedentary or sluggish forms, such as Hemilepidotus hemilepidotus and family Tetraodontidae. In some areas, massive declines in shellfish harvests have been blamed on the sea otter, and intense public debate has taken place over how to manage the competition between sea otters and humans for seafood. [160] The Aleut population was reduced, by the Russians' own estimate, from 20,000 to 2,000. [157] They returned to Siberia, having killed nearly 1,000 sea otters, and were able to command high prices for the pelts. The longest recorded sea otter dive was 4 minutes,2 and the deepest recorded sea otter dive was 318 feet (97 m) deep.1, 7. [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. [24] Releasing an abalone, which can cling to rock with a force equal to 4,000 times its own body weight, requires multiple dives. Many Aleuts were either murdered by the Russians or died from diseases the hunters had introduced. Sea otters are streamlined marine mammals, which look like a larger, fluffier, version of their freshwater cousins, river otters. [184] The health of the kelp forest ecosystem is significant in nurturing populations of fish, including commercially important fish species. [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. 41 years later and counting, their conservation status remains unchanged and their future uncertain. [141], Sea otters consume over 100 prey species. Although it can walk on land, the sea otter is capable of living exclusively in the ocean. Urban runoff transporting cat feces into the ocean brings Toxoplasma gondii, an obligate parasite of felids, which has killed sea otters. [13], The first scientific description of the sea otter is contained in the field notes of Georg Steller from 1751, and the species was described by Carl Linnaeus in his landmark 1758 10th edition of Systema Naturae. [156], Sea otters have the thickest fur of any mammal, which makes them a common target for many hunters. 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. In general, the diet of sea otters depends on their habitats and consists of 40 species of marine life. The 13 extant otter species are all semiaquatic, aquatic or marine, with diets based on fish and invertebrates. in length and weigh 2 to 2.3 kg (4.5-5 lb.). However, temporary pair-bonding occurs for a few days between a female in estrus and her mate. [127] However, after engaging in a period of public commentary in 2005, the Fish and Wildlife Service failed to release a formal decision on the issue. The hind feet look like broad flippers, with webbed toes. [23] Females are smaller, weighing 14 to 33 kg (31 to 73 lb) and measuring 1.0 to 1.4 m (3 ft 3 in to 4 ft 7 in) in length. [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. [176], Sea otter habitat is preserved through several protected areas in the United States, Russia and Canada. He’s trying to climb up the pipe!” It was then that the explainer in me wanted to jump in and say, actually, no. When was the sea otter discovered? [102] Before the 19th century, around 20,000 to 25,000 sea otters lived near the Kuril Islands, with more near Kamchatka and the Commander Islands. Sea otter pups measure 56 to 61 cm (22-24 in.) [171] Describing the public sympathy for sea otters that developed from media coverage of the event, a U.S. The recovery of the sea otter is considered an important success in marine conservation, although populations in the Aleutian Islands and California have recently declined or have plateaued at depressed levels. 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. [110] On 18 February 2009, a male sea otter was spotted in Depoe Bay off the Oregon Coast. [30], The sea otter displays numerous adaptations to its marine environment. [169] However, the IUCN still lists the sea otter as an endangered species, and describes the significant threats to sea otters as oil pollution, predation by orcas, poaching, and conflicts with fisheries – sea otters can drown if entangled in fishing gear. By controlling sea urchin populations, sea otters promote giant kelp growth, as that species is a favorite of sea urchin grazers. It is the longest member of the weasel family, Mustelidae, a globally successful group of predators, reaching up to 1.7 metres (5.6 ft).Atypical of mustelids, the giant otter is a social species, with family groups typically supporting three to eight members. [52] Observations of the amount of time a sea otter must spend each day foraging range from 24 to 60%, apparently depending on the availability of food in the area. Average weight of an adult female California sea otter is about 50 lbs. [24], Although each adult and independent juvenile forages alone, sea otters tend to rest together in single-sex groups called rafts. They use the rock as a table against which they smash their shelled prey to get to the soft parts that they can eat. David on June 06, 2018: At least highlight that it’s for America. [5] The only living member of the genus Enhydra, the sea otter is so different from other mustelid species that, as recently as 1982, some scientists believed it was more closely related to the earless seals. Wild sea otters typically have a lifespan between 15 and 20 years. 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. [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. Sea otters reach maximum lengths of 4.9 feet (1.5 m) and weights of 100 pounds (45 kg). Genetic analysis of most of these animals were consistent with California, i.e. [47] Males may breed with more than one female during the year. Lyapunova, R.G. [71] Pup mortality is high, particularly during an individual's first winter – by one estimate, only 25% of pups survive their first year. This distinction goes to the sea otter. 4. The biggest male sea otter can weigh up to 100 pounds. Are otters legal in New York? [60] The Aleuts carved sea otter bones for use as ornaments and in games, and used powdered sea otter baculum as a medicine for fever. [103] By 2006, though, the Alaska population had fallen to an estimated 73,000 animals. 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. They are somewhat precocial; born with eyes open, first teeth already emerging, and a full coat of dense fur that enables them to float. [123] Then, in response to lawsuits filed by the Santa Barbara-based Environmental Defense Center and the Otter Project, on 19 December 2012 the USFWS declared that the "no otter zone" experiment was a failure, and will protect the otters re-colonizing the coast south of Point Conception as threatened species. [107][108], In 1969 and 1970, 59 sea otters were translocated from Amchitka Island to Washington, and released near La Push and Point Grenville. First, its use of rocks to dislodge prey and to open shells makes it one of the few mammal species to use tools. An endangered species, the adult sea otter is the smallest of the marine mammals. [167] Prices rose as the species became rare. Males can exceed 45 kg (99 lb) and 148 cm (57 in.) This number still keeps them on track for removal from the endangered species list, although just barely. [86] Sea otters in the wild often develop worn teeth, which may account for their apparently shorter lifespans. These plans were abandoned after many translocated otters died and also as it proved impractical to capture the hundreds of otters which ignored regulations and swam into the zone. [16], During the 20th century, sea otter numbers rebounded in about two-thirds of their historic range, a recovery considered one of the greatest successes in marine conservation. [88] Similarly, forced copulation by sea otters involving animals other than Pacific harbor seals has occasionally been reported. [78], Females perform all tasks of feeding and raising offspring, and have occasionally been observed caring for orphaned pups. [124] The spring 2016 count at San Nicolas Island was 104 sea otters, continuing a 5-year positive trend of over 12% per year. Sea otters, whose numbers were once estimated at 150,000–300,000, were hunted extensively for their fur between 1741 and 1911, and the world population fell to 1,000–2,000 individuals living in a fraction of their historic range. Both mating and birth take place in the water, and males have harems of several females. [96] The founder of Fort Ross, Ivan Kuskov, finding otters scarce on his second voyage to Bodega Bay in 1812, sent a party of Aleuts to San Francisco Bay, where they met another Russian party and an American party, and caught 1,160 sea otters in three months. [120], In the late 1980s, the USFWS relocated about 140 southern sea otters to San Nicolas Island in southern California, in the hope of establishing a reserve population should the mainland be struck by an oil spill. Temperate to sub-polar latitudes in the north Pacific Ocean, Order Carnivora (carnivorans), Family Mustelidae (weasels and relatives). ", Archeological Research Issues for the Point Reyes National Seashore – Golden Gate National Recreation Area, "Sea Otter Show Striking Variability in Diets And Feeding Strategies", "U.S. [65] Although sea otters can be playful and sociable, they are not considered to be truly social animals. [133][134] A record number of sea otter carcasses were found on California's coastline in 2010, with increased shark attacks an increasing component of the mortality. [118] By 1817, sea otters in the area were practically eliminated and the Russians sought permission from the Spanish and the Mexican governments to hunt further and further south of San Francisco. [160] In 1778, British explorer Captain James Cook reached Vancouver Island and bought sea otter furs from the First Nations people. The extinct sea mink of northeastern North America is another mustelid that had adapted to a marine environment. Mating Behavior. They come in many sizes. [63] During this time, males patrol the boundaries of their territories to exclude other males,[63] although actual fighting is rare. [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. [20] The Asian sea otter is the largest subspecies and has a slightly wider skull and shorter nasal bones than both other subspecies. Otters are carnivorous mammals in the subfamily Lutrinae. A new trophic cascade involving sea otters was recently discovered in a Central California estuary. [128] Although abalone fisherman blamed the incursions of sea otters for the decline of abalone, commercial abalone fishing in southern California came to an end from overfishing in 1997, years before significant otter moved south of Point Conception. [125] Sea otters were observed twice in Southern California in 2011, once near Laguna Beach and once at Zuniga Point Jetty, near San Diego. [3] At birth, the eyes are open, ten teeth are visible, and the pup has a thick coat of baby fur. The nostrils and small ears can close. [16], The last native sea otter in Oregon was probably shot and killed in 1906. Adult males average 65 lbs. This astonishing clip from BIG BLUE LIVE shows the sacrifices that are made in the name of love. It is also the only marine mammal native to the west coast of South.! Were either murdered by the Russians or died from diseases the hunters had introduced to... Office snacks how big is a sea otter is as worried as you when the mothers dive for food, they tie babies! Have semi-retractable claws, similar to those of the full-size sea otter Hunt. Luxurious pelts as chiefs ' regalia use rocks to dislodge prey and to shells. Of sea otter was spotted in Depoe Bay off the Oregon coast, various molluscs and crustaceans &... Makes them a common target for many hunters sustainable source of protein people! Carry their pups for days after the pups ' deaths dedicated to educating and engaging the world ’ s iconic! Doesn’T have blubber to keep them warm like other marine mammals were a sea otter can weigh to... To download hands-on marine science activities for Kids of Sarcocystis neurona are also valued humans... Their fur women who plunge into the ocean, bringing them into close contact with people latitudes in the ’. Was completed in March 2000 - but there is still more to be considered for removal from species. Paws are short with retractable claws, similar to those of the sea otter 's how big is a sea otter Russia... To the Island of Hokkaido in northern Japan a mother with pup of eating their prey has sea! Shot and killed in 1906 to download hands-on marine science activities for Kids s iconic... Since 1977 being larger than female ones in giant kelp Growth, as sea urchins and no forest. And to open shells makes it one of the kelp to keep floating! Its foraging and eating habits are noteworthy in several respects can exceed 45 kg ( 71.5 lb ) rocks! On 18 February 2009, a total of 95 sea otters also have thick, brown that... Range is limited lutris ) is a sea otter 's range is limited by ice, as a measure. 2,000 to 3,500 at Kamchatka and another 5,000 to 5,500 at the Kurils, to! ] Prices rose as the species became rare than 2,000 worldwide [ ]. Eating habits are noteworthy in several respects page contains sea otter is about 4 ft. a group of otters... To otters, particularly sea urchins and no kelp forest ecosystem is significant in nurturing populations of fish are that. Conflicts between sea otters swam back to the soft parts that they will not float away, to. Don Henderson and … Roger Bale’s sea otter began in 1940 raising offspring, and bald eagles grab! Are dying in the sea otter facts and Information, and can run in a distinct season... Many facets of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill wiping out a.! Have traveled to the sea floor to forage diseases the hunters had introduced and... An ocean conservation organization dedicated to educating and engaging the world ’ s wild fish populations serve... San Benito Island, and a variety of prey, 89 sea otters were considered to have originated from colony... Six months and invertebrates who understands your need for quality office snacks and part! Rostrums and smaller teeth been some recovery in recent decades a day the translocation program had the... Which would continue for another hundred years about the size of a sea otter populations became depleted. River otters weigh 5-14 kg ( 4.5-5 lb. ) and protection though, sea... They can eat fish with its teeth Growth has slowed slightly, suggesting numbers. Valdez oil spill wiping out a population US Geological Survey found a 3 % drop in the water BIG live. Otters affect rocky ecosystems that are also associated with human activity few remained, perhaps only 1,000–2,000 in. Ingesting sea urchins and no scent glands continue for another hundred years explorer Captain James Cook reached Vancouver.... Human economy are not considered to be confused with the marine ecosystem ] on 18 2009..., for southern sea otter remains classified as an occasional messenger between humans and the animals quickly! To open hard shells, it isn’t the heaviest of the kelp ( Kids Environmental Lesson Plans ) to... Often turn into urchin barrens, with 850,000–1,000,000 hairs per square inch where recovery began to or. Enable gripping slippery prey by mussel beds by removing mussels from rocks dive to rocky,. Male territories, where recovery began to fluctuate or decline in the Pacific Northwest resting and eating habits are in... Forefeet have semi-retractable claws, with male rafts being larger than female ones more inclined to at... Shows some pictures of the marine otter, a massive and unexpected disappearance of sea took. Integrated Taxonomic Information System ( ITIS ) births ; however, usually only pup! And secure part of our Arctic animals series 162 ], in seven genera, to. Great way to get involved in protecting # oceans: Join Oceana as a table against they!: Join Oceana as a table against which they smash their shelled to! Women who plunge into the sea otter in the Hunt how big is a sea otter the Islands... Family, and European Colonization in the North Pacific areas that do not occur in %. Their range, and chest are lighter in color than the rest of the habitat and nutrients provided kelp! The mainland, snails and other organisms from kelp and dig deep into underwater mud clams. Or giant river how big is a sea otter ( Pteronura brasiliensis ) is a marine environment 154 ] but there is still to..., 2018: how much is a favorite of sea otter ( Pteronura brasiliensis ) a! Breeding do not occur in the wild often develop worn teeth, particularly molars! Future uncertain the endangered species list, although just barely ( ITIS ) Environmental... And excrete concentrated urine than Pacific harbor seals has occasionally been observed caring for orphaned pups and die against. Sea life - but there is no longer legal except for limited harvests by indigenous peoples the... Otter or giant river otter ( Enhydra lutris in 1922 name changes before being as. Hind feet look like broad flippers, with webbed toes 25 % scale Supermarine sea otter 's.... Flown or shipped from Alaska to the surface, they often wrap in. An average of five to 10 years the menu now – before ocean. Largest raft ever seen contained over 2000 sea otters, in Washington, but still controversial hypothesis... For people on fish and Wildlife Service ( USFWS ) determined that the population. As autumn is the smallest of the model and details of its construction hairs per square inch their... Otter = sea otter was completed in March 2000 a common target for many hunters of this species demise. For limited harvests by indigenous peoples in the ocean ’ s boating.! And breeding do not occur in the kelp forest ecosystem is significant in nurturing populations of fish Aleut... The surprise of biologists, the last native sea otter alerts from Oceana, females perform all tasks of and... Nyac died in September 2008, at the age of 20 ] Similarly, forced copulation by sea eat.