California Sea Otters
California sea otters, a member of the weasel family, can live their entire lives in the water, nursing and nurturing their pups as seen with this mother sea otter with pup in the photo. Their range is from just north of Monterey Bay to Point Conception in the south.
Until 1911 otters were hunted for their dense fur, which insulates them in the water. They are now fully protected with a threatened status.
Otters dive and forage along the ocean floor and if the waters are murky, can distinguish different foods with their dexterous fingers.
They eat different species of shellfish, bringing up rocks with them to use as a sort of anvil on which to crack the shells on their chest. They also eat sea urchins which destroy the kelp beds.
The groups of otters are called rafts and they can often be seen holding hands as they sleep lest they drift away from each other. Other times they wrap themselves in the kelp at the surface since the kelp is anchored to the sea floor.
Unlike other marine mammals (whales, seals, dolphins) which use layers of blubber, otters maintain their body temperature in the cold sea water with amazingly dense fur. On a square inch of otter fur there are 850,000 to 1,000,000 hairs! This is the most dense of any animal.
It was for this incredibly dense fur that they were nearly hunted to extinction.
They don’t migrate and generally stay within a home range of a mile or two.
If you would like to see some of these wonderfully fetching creatures, first look for kelp beds just off shore. There might be some of them floating amid the kelp.