Wildlife Up Close: Northern Sea Otters

This gallery contains 4 photos. Sea otters may be cute, but they are also constantly on the move — which makes them difficult to capture through glass, reflections, and water. But once in a while, they’ll “paws” and shoot you a melt-your-heart look at the right moment, like this one did, in the middle of its lunch. Photographed December 7 at the Vancouver Aquarium.

Sea-Otter-Pauses

The Vancouver Aquarium is currently home to four rehabilitated sea otters: Walter, Tanu, Katmai, and Elfin (it has hosted a total of six sea otters in its history — the first two, Nyac and Milo, have gone to sea otter heaven). This is the first time that I’ve seen a pair (there are two sea otters per enclosure/pool) not on their backs, and taking a breather on the ledge, with ice chips embedded as snacks, and a string of multi-coloured balls as a toy.

Sea-Otter-Taking-Five

Sea-Otters-Resting
These two chums are probably Elfin (boy) and Katmai (girl). Don’t ask me who’s who.

BC sea otters went extinct some 250 years ago, when they were hunted for their much prized fur (which is the densest in the world–so dense that their skin never gets wet)1. A local sea otter population–re-established 45 years ago when 89 Alaskan sea otters were brought to West Coast waters–has an estimated 5,000 members now2. There are an estimated 110,000 sea otters in the wild worldwide.3

Sea-Otter-Joy
Smile! It’s feeding time!

1, 2, 3 Facts and figures are from vanaqua.org and Wikipedia sea otter profiles.

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6 thoughts on “Wildlife Up Close: Northern Sea Otters

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