Sea Otter

North America & Asia


Classification Mammal Average life span in the wild: Up to 23 years

Size: 4 ft (1.25 m) Weight: 65 lbs (30 kg) Protection status:Threatened

Size relative to a 6-ft (2-m) man

The scientific name of the Sea Otter is the "Enhydra lutris". Their fur actually consists of two layer, an undercoat and longer guard hairs. This system traps a layer of air next to their skin so their skin does not get wet. Sea otters are usually dark brown, often with lighter guard hairs.

Food Chain

A Sea Otter's diet consists mainly of slow-moving fishes and marine invertebrates including crabs, sea urchins, abalones, clams, mussels, and snails. It is believed that sea otters snare their food from the ocean floor and smash open their food with a rock while lying on their back.

Kit the Sea Otter Pup: Conquering the Crab


Sea otters are found along the coast of the Pacific Ocean, North America and Asia, the Aleutian Islands, and along British Columbia, Washington and down to Baja California, Mexico.

Sea otters generally live in fairly shallow waters, the deepest waters being 40m . Their habitat is composed of the sea floor where they catch food and the sea surface where they eat, groom, rest and socialize. Sea otters will frequently live in areas which have kelp beds. They will raft in the kelp bed canopies. (Bodkin and Ballachy, 1997)

Sea otters (genus Enhydra) are found in coastal waters of the North Pacific, rarely more than 1 km (0.6 mi.) from shore.

They are capable of spending their entire life at sea, but sometimes rest on rocky shores. The Alaska otter has a greater tendency to haul out (come to shore) than the California otter.

California otters often prefer kelp beds, probably because of the protection and food resources they provide.


Adaptation For Protection Sea otters have a waterproof fur to help float and keep warm, nostrils and ears that close in the water, and webbed feet.

Adaptation in Behavior Sea otters often float on their backs at the water's surface, to sleep, gathered in groups. Otters can float in forests of kelp, and entangle themselves to provide anchorage in the swirling sea.

Adaptation for Eating and Getting Food While floating on their backs, sea others can open a clam or mussel with a rock smashing against it until it opens. Others marine food chain pulled from the ocean floor are sea urchins, crabs, squid, octopuses, and fish.


Critical Information

Sea otters in California became almost extinct in the past decade because of over hunting for their beautiful fur. Currently there is still threats to their lifelihood, since frequent oil spills can damage the insulating capacity of their fur and sea otters can chill and even die. Lately due to efforts of the Marine Mammal Center rehabilitation of sea otters since 1995, 207 sea otters have been rescued.

California sea otters are found off the coast of central California; between Half Moon Bay and Pt. Conception. There is also a small experimental population that originated from relocated animals at San Miguel Island off the coast of Santa Barbara.

Historically, sea otters occupied a contiguous range from northern Japan, across the North Pacific, and down to Baja California, Mexico. They were hunted nearly to extinction, but conservation measures have allowed some populations to recover.