Northern Sea Otter
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Northern sea otters live in the waters of the Pacific Ocean. There are populations off of the coast of Alaska, British Columbia and Washington state. They are most often associated with kelp beds but can also be found in areas with softer sediment and no kelp.
Sea otters mate throughout the year, with one offspring born per female. The young will ride on its mother’s chest as she swims on her back and it takes 90 days to 6 months for the pup to be weaned. The only time a female will leave its offspring is to dive for food. Sea otters are not overly territorial, and females will often move back and forth between the territories of a variety of males. Groups of female and male sea otters sleep separately.
Life expectancy of the northern sea otter is an average of 19 years in captivity, with a maximum lifespan of 27 years. The longest a sea otter will live in the wild is usually 23 years.
Sea otters eat marine invertebrates, primarily urchins, abalone, mussels, clams, crabs, snails and about 40 other marine species. They must eat a quarter of their weight each day in order to support their high metabolism and will use rocks to kill their prey.
The most current population estimates suggest that there are nearly 126,000 sea otters worldwide.
Sea otters are one of a handful of animals known to use tools. They are the smallest marine mammal, closely related to river otters. Despite living in the ocean, sea otters do not have a layer of blubber like other marine mammals. They have a dense, water resistant coat that provides insulation from the cold. They have to eat a lot to survive: at least 25% of their body weight per day.
Why are They Endangered?
Oil spills are the most significant threat to the survival of the sea otter. Other human activities have negative consequences including shooting, entrapment in commercial fishing equipment and pollution that jeopardizes their food source. Climate change will also continue to result in changes in marine biology that could potentially prove catastrophic for the survival of the sea otter.