Sea otters are marine mammals that spend most of their time in the water. They are the smallest of all marine mammals. They eat, sleep, give birth and feed their young ones at sea. They are fast and graceful when in water, whereas slow and awkward on land.

They are sleek and furry and are about four feet long and weigh from 20-37 kg. They have round heads, small eyes and visible ears. Their ears and nostrils close when they are underwater. They sleep and rest on their back and wrap themselves in the kelp to keep them from drifting away.

Sea otters have the thickest fur of any other marine mammals, consisting of 850,000 to 1 million hairs per square inch. They depend on these hairs to keep them warm while in the water. Their fur ranges from brown to almost black. As sea otters age, their hands and necks will lighten until almost white.

Hunting style In order to capture food, sea otters dive to the bottom in 5-250 feet of water. During a dive, they collect and store the food in the loose skin flaps of their armpit. Once they have collected their food, the sea otters surface, roll onto their back, place the food on their chest and continue to eat the prey. Sea otters always eat in the water. Hunting for food is one of their most important daily activities. They have strong jawbones and large, rounded teeth to help them crush the shells of crabs, snails, and sea urchins. Their big lower teeth called incisors jut forward and are used to scoop the meat out of the shells. If their

prey has a hard outer shell, they hit it against a rock or hard object in order to break the hard shell.

Favourite food

Sea otters are carnivores and shellfish is their favourite food. They eat crabs, sea urchins, snails, octopus and fish. They prefer foods that they can pick up easily. They need a lot of food so that they stay healthy. Adult sea otters can eat 25 to 30 per cent of their

body weight per day in order to stay warm. They feed mainly in the morning and afternoon.

Their homes

Sea otters live in shallow coastal waters about 55 metres deep. They spend much of their lives in the water. Sea otters are found only in the North Pacific Ocean, where they live in areas with rocky coastlines and thick kelp forests. They especially like to reside in waters with kelp beds. They can only be found along the coasts of Russia, Alaska, and central California. They do not migrate and hardly ever travel far unless they are in search for food.

Their young ones

Sea otter pups are born on land and in the water. They weigh four to five pounds at birth. For the first month of its life, a sea otter pup rests quietly on its mother’s chest as she cuddles, grooms and feeds it. Until the pup is six months old, its mother never leaves it except to look for food. When she does, she sometimes wraps the pup in kelp to keep it from drifting away on an ocean current. To escape from danger, a sea otter mother tucks her pup under her foreleg and dives underwater. Life span of male sea otters is 10-15 years and 15-20 years of females. — Compiled by Merina Pradhan