To sea-lebrate World Otter Day, we’ve gathered up 7 interesting facts about the notoriously cute and curious sea otter. Get to know these adorable (and essential) animals and help make sure you do your part to keep their homes in the ocean healthy and thriving
- 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 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.
- 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.
- 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 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.
- 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.
- 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.