Sea Otters

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The  Sea Otters of the BC coastal region

Sea Otters
Sea Otters, Photo By Bud Logan

The sea otter lives on the west coast of North America, with many living around Vancouver Island. The sea otter spends little time ashore, preferring to stay in the coastal kelp beds.

Sea otters swim through the water using their long and powerful hind feet. Their forelegs are small in comparison, featuring 5-fingered hands, which are used to hold prey.

The sea otter is the only carnivore to have four incisor teeth in its lower jaw, these teeth are used to break open shellfish.

They have luxurious coats, and these coats almost brought them to extinction.  In the 18th century they were mercilessly exploited, until only a few remained. They are protected now and their numbers are good.

Sea otters live in small herds in shallow waters, particularly around kelp beds that are rich in shellfish, fish & other marine life. Kelp is also useful when they sleep at sea, they will wrap it around themselves to stop them from drifting.

They do everything on their backs, feed, float, sleep & swim, only swimming belly down when in a hurry. Feeding takes place mainly in the early morning and evening. Sea urchins, crabs, abalones & other shellfish are the main items on the menu.

They use their chests as a table and will sometimes place a flat rock there to use as an anvil to smash open clams and mussels, crabs are eaten one leg at a time, but sea urchins seem to be their favorite dish.

Mating takes place throughout the year. Their gestational period is about 9 months after which a single pup is born,  eyes open, ready to learn to swim. The birth takes place on land, then the mother carries the pup into the water and teaches it to swim.The young leave their mother when they are about a year old, but will not reach sexual maturity until they are about 4 years old.

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