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Wildlife Wednesday: Sea Otter

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Wildlife Wednesday: Sea Otter

This Wildlife Wednesday, learn about the sea otter - everyone’s favourite fun-loving marine mammal.

This Wildlife Wednesday, learn about the sea otter—everyone’s favourite fun-loving marine mammal.

Habitat: Pacific Ocean

Sea otter trivia

  • Many of us assume that mammals are land-dwelling creatures, but sea otters, like whales, are mammals that eat, sleep, breed, and even play in the water.  And they’re perfectly suited for life in the sea, equipped with webbed feet and a slick waterproof coat. They even have specialized ears and noses that close in the water.
  • Their unique coats require a lot of effort to keep clean, so they are well known for their painstaking grooming habits.
  • The iconic image of a sea otter is that of one lying on its back in the water, looking as relaxed and carefree as we do floating on an inflatable chair in the backyard pool. This is indeed the sea otter’s favourite pose, and they’re even known to sleep in that position.
  • Sea otters dine on shellfish, which means that have to crack open the shells of mussels and clams. They do this by smashing the shell against a rock, and then feasting on the seafood while—you guessed it—lying on their backs, floating in the water.
  • One of the things that makes sea otters so beloved by humans is their cuteness. Case in point: they have been known to sleep holding paws so they don’t drift away from each other. Cute!

Why we need them
Sea otters have been dubbed the “keystone species” in their ecosystem, meaning that they affect many other species and keep the delicate network in check.

Why they’re threatened and what you can do to help
Sea otters have been hunted by humans for their thick, waterproof coat, and at one point only about 1,000 to 2,000 were left. That number has increased dramatically, but they are still classified as endangered.

Oil spills are a particular threat to sea otters, as their coat needs to be kept meticulously clean for them to stay warm and dry. When oil coats their fur, they often die from hypothermia or complications after ingesting the oil in an effort to clean themselves. Other threats include potential fisheries interactions (such as being caught in nets) and disease.

To help sea otters, learn more about oil spills and how interconnected marine ecosystems are, and consider checking out the World Wildlife Fund Canada for more information on how to take action.

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