Happy Sea Otter Awareness Week!

Published September 22, 2014

It’s Sea Otter Awareness Week, a week dedicated to getting to know sea otters, their history and the important role they play in kelp forest ecosystems.

sea-otters

Sea otters have valuable fur, and as a result were almost hunted to extinction in the early 1900s. In the late ‘70s, they gained protection under the Endangered Species Act. Today, you can spot sea otters along the Pacific coasts of North America and Asia.

Here are some of our favorite sea otter facts:

  • Sea otters sometimes hold hands. When floating asleep on their backs, sea otters will often grasp each other’s paws or wrap themselves in kelp to keep from drifting away.
  • A sea otter eats about a quarter of its body weight each day. They dine on a variety of food, including clams, mussels, crabs, sea urchins and fish.
  • They can close their ears and nostrils underwater. An otter’s vibrissae, or whiskers, can sense vibrations in the water which help it track prey.
  • Sea otters use rocks as tools for eating hard-shelled food, such as clams or mussels. The otter will float on its back, place a rock on its belly and then smash a shell against the rock until it cracks open.
  • They have the densest fur of any mammal. While most marine mammals have a layer of blubber for warmth, sea otters rely on their thick fur for insulation—it can have up to one million hairs per square inch.
  • They’re neat freaks! Sea otters spend two to three hours a day grooming—clean fur is key to keeping the cold water out.

To learn more about sea otters and how to help protect them, click here!

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