In honour of the 12th annual Sea Otter Awareness Week September 21 through 27, we thought we would share some fun facts about these cute, curious creatures. We’ll be celebrating these amazing animals all fall with special sea otter programming at the Aquarium and a sea otter themed scavenger hunt!

  1. Sea otters have the densest fur in the animal kingdom – with up to a million hairs per square inch! Unlike other marine mammals, sea otters do not have an insulating layer of blubber to keep them warm, and instead rely on their thick fur coats. Adult otters spend 15 percent or more of their day grooming their fur to keep it in top condition.

    Sea otter week at the Vancouver Aquarium

    Thick fur keeps sea otters warm in the cold water temperatures.

  2. Sea otters were hunted to extinction along the coast of B.C. because of their thick fur during the 1700’s and 1800’s. Today, B.C. sea otters are descendants of 89 Alaskan sea otters that were relocated to the west coast of Vancouver Island from 1969 to 72.
  3. Sea otters are one of the few tool-using mammals. Sea otters use rocks to break open their food including clams and crabs. They often store their favourite rock in a pocket of fur located under their foreleg.
  4. Sea otters have a huge appetite. They consume approximately 25 percent of their body weight each and every day. This would be similar to a 150 pound human eating 37 pounds of food daily.

    Sea otter eating a crab at the Vancouver Aquarium

    Breakfast, lunch, dinner and many meals in between for sea otters.

  5. Sea otters are a keystone species meaning their role in their environment has a greater effect than other species. As predators, sea otters are critical to maintaining the balance of the near-shore kelp ecosystems. Without sea otters, the undersea animals they prey on would devour the kelp forests off the coast that provide cover and food for many other marine animals.
  6. Sea otters spend their whole lives in the ocean. They mate, sleep, groom, hunt, and give birth in the water. Occasionally, in some areas where there are few predators they may rest on land, but they spend most of their time at the water’s surface floating on their backs.

    Sea otters in the water at the Vancouver Aquarium

    Sea otters are most at ease in the ocean.

  7. Oil spills are the greatest threats to sea otters. Their fur loses its buoyance and insulating capacity when covered with oil, leading to hypothermia and pneumonia. When sea otters groom and clean their oiled fur, they ingest the oil which has detrimental effects on their liver, kidneys and lungs. The Aquarium worked with rescued sea otters from the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill including Nyac, who was made famous for her hand holding video with sea otter Milo.

Sea otters are amazing creatures. You can help support the sea otters of the Vancouver Aquarium by visiting during our Spotlight on Sea Otters or making an online donation today.

Want to learn more? Join us for on Twitter for our live sea otter chat on Thursday Sept 25 from 10 to 11 am with one of our expert animal trainers with #seaotterweek.

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4 Responses

  1. Marta From Spain

    Hi, I’ve been there this June and I fell in love with the Otter. But I have one question. Why the Otter sleep with a blanket?

    Reply
    • Vancouver Aquarium

      Hi Marta,

      The otters are hard not to fall in love with! In the wild, otters hold hands or hold onto/wrap themselves in kelp to not float away – this is called “rafting.” The “blankets” they have at the Aquarium are enrichment devices or “fake kelp” as we call them, used to provide them with the same sort of comfort that kelp provides in the wild.

      Reply
  2. Canadian Joe

    “with up to a millions hairs per square inch” – square inches eh? Isn’t Vancouver in Canada? Doesn’t Canada use the metric system? How many hair per square centimetre, eh?

    Reply
    • Vancouver Aquarium

      Hi Joe, the answer to your question is that there are 100,000 or more hairs per square centimetre. A “million hairs per square inch” is the most common reference when referring to sea otter fur which is why it was included, but we are very much proud to be Canadian up here in Vancouver!

      Reply

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