Sea Otter Awareness Week – September 17-23

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This week we celebrate sea otters with Sea Otter Awareness Week. The days dedicated to these adorable sea creatures are September 17th to 23rd.

Otters are creatures that have the densest fur of any animal, not to mention the level of cuteness to boot!

sea otter awareness week banner
Photo Courtesy of: Peppermint Narwhal Creative

Interesting Otter Facts for Sea Otter Awareness Week

Sea otters are elusive and don’t usually like to interact with humans, but we still have some fun facts about them! Let’s unpack some interesting tidbits in celebration of Sea Otter Awareness Week.

  • Sea otters live in environments that range from the northern coasts of Alaska down to central California. They are also found in parts of Russia, Japan, and China.
  • Sea otters are the only marine mammals that use tools! They will often go after clams and other shellfish by smashing their shells open on stones or rocks on the ocean floor.
  • Sea otters are not “sea” otters. Rather, they are called sea lions.
  • Sea otters have two front legs for swimming and the other two legs for walking on land. They may be the only species that has eccentrically placed front paws! They also have a tail that acts as a counterbalance for going over slippery surfaces such as rocks or logs.
  • Sea otters can range from 1 – 2 ft (0.3 – 0.6 m) in length, including the tail, and weigh between 22 -45 pounds (10.0 – 20.0 kg).
  • Sea otters have very dense fur! They can have 850 hair shaft fibers per square inch (7,850 cm2). This density of fur allows them to remain warm even when they are in cold water.
  • Unlike other mammals, sea otters have a “warm” fur color that helps them blend in with the ocean’s kelp forests for protection and camouflage.
  • Sea otters have unique dental construction to help them eat shellfish that can be difficult to chew. They use their upper teeth to break up hard shells and the lower teeth to scrape out meat from inside.
  • Sea otters are marine mammals that are native to the eastern and northern North Pacific oceans.
  • The are the heaviest members of the weasel family, but the smallest in the marine mammal family.
weasel on a tree stump outside
  • They usually inhabit the nearshore environments where they dive to the seafloor for food. Their usual diet has consisted of urchins, mollusks, crustaceans, and some fish.
  • Sea otters were nearly driven to extinction in the 18th and 19th century, but after they survived that was threatened again in the 1980s by the massive oil spills. They are strong and endurable animals and have managed to survive many catastrophes. In the past, their numbers in the world were up to a million, but due to today’s fur trade, their numbers are going down and today are estimated to be around 100 000. Out of these 100 000, around 3000 live just in California.
  • Sea otters spend most of their lives in the water and can dive up to 330 feet when looking for food. Sea otters are known to be one of the few mammals that build and use tools. They are seen to use rocks and small objects in order to pry the shellfish from the rocks and hammer them open.
  • They mate throughout the whole year and the gestation period is 6-8 months. They usually give birth to one pup, but sometimes there can be twins.
Mom and sea otter pup floating in the water
  • The most common threats to sea otters are oil spills, shark attacks, degradation of habitat and lack of food, and of course the conflict with humans (shooting for sport and for the fur industry).
  • Take this week to learn more about sea otters and their behavior, watch documentaries and share with friends what you have learned.
  • A group of otters is called a levy, lodge or a family.

How Many Sea Otters are Left in the World?

The current population of sea otters is estimated to be around 106,000 individuals worldwide, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. However, this number is a rough estimate, and the population size varies depending on the location and the specific subspecies of sea otter.

Sea otters were once hunted extensively for their thick fur, and their populations declined sharply in the 18th and 19th centuries. Today, sea otters are listed as endangered or threatened in many parts of their range, including the United States, Canada, Russia, and Japan. Conservation efforts, such as habitat protection, anti-poaching measures, and reintroduction programs, have helped to stabilize some populations of sea otters, but many populations are still vulnerable to threats such as oil spills, disease outbreaks, and habitat loss.

It is important to continue monitoring the population sizes of sea otters and implementing conservation measures to ensure that these charismatic and important animals continue to thrive in the wild.

Are Otters Sea Creatures?

Yes, otters are sea creatures, but not all species of otters live exclusively in the sea. Otters are semi-aquatic mammals that are found in both freshwater and marine environments, depending on the species. Some species, such as the sea otter, live exclusively in marine environments, while others, like the river otter, are found in freshwater rivers and lakes.

Sea otters are the smallest marine mammals and are known for their ability to float on their backs and use rocks to crack open shellfish, their main source of food. They are found along the coasts of the northern Pacific Ocean, from Russia to California, and are important indicators of the health of coastal ecosystems.

otter in the water with a fish in its mouth

Are Otters Dangerous?

Otters are generally not considered dangerous to humans, and attacks on humans by otters are rare. Otters are known for their playful and curious nature, and they are usually more interested in exploring their environment and finding food than they are in interacting with people. However, like all wild animals, otters can become aggressive if they feel threatened or cornered, especially if they are protecting their young or territory.

It is important to note that in some regions, otters can carry diseases such as parasites or viruses that can be transmitted to humans. Therefore, it is recommended to avoid direct contact with otters in the wild and to observe them from a safe distance. If you encounter an otter in the wild, it is best to admire it from afar and avoid any actions that may disturb or threaten the animal.

Are Otters Rodents?

No, otters are not rodents. Otters are semi-aquatic mammals that belong to the family Mustelidae, which also includes weasels, ferrets, minks, and badgers. Otters are closely related to other aquatic mammals like sea lions, seals, and walruses, and they are adapted to living in and near water.

Rodents, on the other hand, belong to the order Rodentia and include animals such as rats, mice, squirrels, and beavers. Rodents are characterized by their continuously growing incisor teeth, which they use for gnawing and chewing on plants and other materials.

While otters and rodents may share some physical characteristics, such as sharp teeth and fur, they are not closely related taxonomically and have very different ecological roles and adaptations.

If you want to learn more, visit the website “Sea Otter Awareness Week”.

How Long Can Otters Hold Their Breath?

otter under water
Photo Courtesy of: Pinterest

Otters are excellent swimmers and have adapted to a semi-aquatic lifestyle, which requires them to hold their breath for extended periods of time. The length of time that otters can hold their breath varies depending on the species and the activity they are engaged in.

Sea otters, for example, can hold their breath for up to 5-6 minutes when they are resting or sleeping, but they usually surface to breathe every 1-2 minutes while they are actively swimming and foraging. River otters can hold their breath for up to 4-8 minutes when they are swimming and diving for food, but they usually surface to breathe every 30 seconds to 1 minute.

It is important to note that and otter in the water has special adaptations that allow it to hold its breath for extended periods of time, such as a high concentration of myoglobin in their muscles, which helps to store oxygen, and a reduced heart rate when they are submerged, which conserves oxygen. These adaptations allow otters to stay underwater longer than many other mammals, making them highly efficient and effective swimmers.

Observing Sea Otter Awareness Week

Sea Otter Awareness Week is a great opportunity to learn more about sea otters and to take action to protect these important and charismatic animals. Here are some ways to celebrate Sea Otter Awareness Week:

  1. Learn about sea otters: Take some time to read about sea otters and their role in marine ecosystems. You can find a wealth of information online, from scientific articles to educational videos and podcasts.
  2. Visit an aquarium or wildlife center: Many aquariums and wildlife centers host events and activities during Sea Otter Awareness Week, such as talks, guided tours, and interactive exhibits. Visiting these places can be a great way to learn more about sea otters and support their conservation efforts.
  3. Support sea otter conservation: There are many organizations that work to protect sea otters and their habitats, and you can support their efforts by making a donation or volunteering your time. You can also support sustainable fishing practices and reduce your carbon footprint to help mitigate the effects of climate change on sea otters and other marine life.
  4. Spread the word: Share information about Sea Otter Awareness Week and the importance of sea otter conservation with your friends and family, and on social media. You can use hashtags such as #SeaOtterAwarenessWeek and #SaveTheSeaOtters to join the conversation and raise awareness.

By taking these actions and spreading the word about the importance of sea otters, we can all help to protect these amazing animals and the marine ecosystems they call home.

Happy Sea Otter Awareness Week!

fluffy and wet sea otter pup

In conclusion, Sea Otter Awareness Week is an important opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of sea otters and their role in marine ecosystems. Sea otters play a critical role in maintaining the health of kelp forests and other coastal habitats, and they are also important indicators of the health of marine ecosystems.

By increasing public awareness of the threats facing sea otters, such as habitat loss, pollution, and climate change, we can work together to protect these iconic animals and the ecosystems they depend on. During Sea Otter Awareness Week and beyond, we can all take actions to support sea otter conservation, such as reducing our carbon footprint, supporting sustainable fishing practices, and advocating for policies that protect marine habitats and wildlife.

Why not read our article about National Service Dog Month and observe it too?