Sea Otter

STATUS:
Threatened off California.

DESCRIPTION:
The sea otter has the thickest fur in the animal kingdom. Unlike other marine mammals, the sea otter does not have a layer of blubber (fat) to help keep it warm. If an otter' s fur gets coated with oil or any other substance, it can easily die from cold and exposure.

SIZE:
The sea otter is the largest member of the weasel family. Southern sea otters typically reach about four feet in length. Females average 45 pounds, while males average 65 pounds. Northern sea otters can reach up to 100 pounds.

POPULATION:
Today there are about 2,000 southern sea otters off the coast of California. There are between 27,500 and 52,500 northern sea otters residing in Alaska, Canada and Washington. There are approximately 15,000 in Russia. Two hundred years ago, demand for the otter' s pelt nearly led to its extinction.

LIFESPAN:
Male sea otters live an average of ten to 15 years, while female sea otters live an average of 15 to 20 years.

RANGE:
The sea otter' s historic range stretched from Japan, along the coast of Siberia and the Aleutian Chain and down the Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon and California coast to Baja California.

HABITAT:
Shallow coastal waters of the northern Pacific.

FOOD:
Sea urchins, abalone, mussels, clams, crabs, snails and about 40 other marine species.

BEHAVIOR:
Sea otters are the only mammals other than primates known to use tools. Otters use small rocks or other objects to pry prey from rocks and to hammer or pry open their food. They can dive up to 330 feet when foraging for food. Otters rest in coastal kelp forests, often draping the kelp over their bodies to keep from drifting away.

OFFSPRING:
Sea otters breed throughout the year. Females give birth to one pup after a gestation period of six to eight months.

THREATS:
Oil spills, habitat loss, gill net entanglement and conflict with shellfish fisheries.

PROTECTION:
*CITES, Appendix I, Marine Mammal Protection Act, Endangered Species Act

*Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, an international treaty with more than 144 member countries. Appendix I listed species cannot be traded commercially. Appendix II listed species can be traded commercially only if it does not harm their survival.