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Critter Guide
Mammals/Marine Life: Sea Otter

Sea Otter

Sea otters are the largest in the family mustelidae species, which includes weasels, ferrets, badgers, and skunks. Sea otters paddle gracefully through the water with their webbed feet.


Where do they live?:

Sea otters used to live in Japan, Mexico, and other areas, but fur traders destroyed many of them. Today, there are only small populations of sea otters along the coasts of Alaska, California, and Russia.


What do they eat?:

Otters like many foods including kelp, sea urchins, snails, mussels, crabs, scallops, fish, barnacles, octopi, and squid.


Social Environment:

Sea otters are largely solitary animals, and females stay away from males except when mating. Sea otters can spend their whole life in the ocean but will rest on land when the population density is high. Grooming and cleaning their fur is important for maintaining its insulating properties.


Critter Fact:

Otters are the only marine mammals to have fur instead of blubber. Unlike seals and walruses, sea otters have no blubber to keep them warm. Their fur, the densest of all mammals, has about 100,000 hairs per square centimeter. It is designed to trap air to keep the otter warm and buoyant. Otters can die when exposed to oil spills if their fur is so damaged that it does not keep them warm enough.




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Did You Know?

Sea otters are one of the few mammals that use tools: they use rocks to break open the shell of prey.

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