Sea otter sightings have increased in the Victoria area in the last week, and online videos show people interacting with them. But despite their cuteness, Tessa Danelesko, the Vancouver Aquarium’s B.C. Cetacean Sightings Network coordinator, cautions people from getting too close.

“Avoid approaching any marine mammal closer than 100 metres. If you are approached, avoid feeding, touching or swimming with the animal, and back away slowly as soon as it is safe to do so.”

It’s not only for the animal’s sake but for yours too.

Tessa is the B.C. Cetacean Sightings Network coordinator.

“Animals can behave unpredictably, which poses a safety risk if they use their natural defense mechanisms, like teeth or claws. Animals can also transmit diseases to people through close contact.”

And beyond that single interaction, there can be long-term consequences for the animal. Tessa says, “When humans disturb, feed, swim with or touch a marine animal it can disrupt natural behaviours like feeding or resting. If an animal becomes habituated and loses its natural inclination to avoid people, it may become a nuisance and have to be removed from an area or killed. People can also transmit diseases to animals.”

Have you seen a sea otter lately? Fisheries and Oceans Canada, which works closely with the B.C. Cetacean Sightings Network, collects sightings of sea otters, especially from areas around southern Vancouver Island. To report your sea otter sighting call 250-756-7253.

Learn more about marine mammal-viewing etiquette at Be Whale Wise.

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