Sea Otters in the Wild

I have been given a great idea! The research I do for novels I will share on my blog. That will keep it fresh in my mind, help me sort out what I want to use, and give you some info. you may not have had before.

The protagonist in my current work in progress, Rogue Wave, is a sea otter biologist. Hence, we learn about sea otters.

Just about everyone knows they float upside down so they can break open abalone shells with rocks and eat them. In the wild, they also like sea anemones, crabs, sea urchins, octopus, turban snails, mussels, and innkeeper worms. What I didn’t know is that a sea otter pup usually prefers the same foods his or her mother likes, and otters spend eight of every 24 hours finding and eating their food.

Besides humans, otters have only one other predator, the Great White Shark. However, humans nearly did them in before otters were protected. We wanted their gorgeous, soft fur for coats. Otter fur  has two layers, the guard hair outer soft layer and the underfur. They spend a great deal of each day grooming themselves, and flipping in the water to keep buoyant from air bubbles in their fur. One square inch of their fur has between 170,000 and 1,000,000 hairs. I know some middle aged men who would die for that much hair.

Sea otters like to live in giant kelp because they feed on sea urchins that live there, and the otters wrap up in the kelp to sleep.Sea urchins destroy kelp. Otters keep the sea urchin population down and help the whole kelp forest environment. The otters tend to feed alone, or with a pup, but they rest in groups, sometimes out on the beach.

When an otter leaves the ocean, it’s called “hauling out.” California otters do this less than Alaskan otters, and females more than males. They are fast swimmers, but a little clunky on the beach because their back feet are flippers. They might remind you of Dustin Hoffman’s flipper scene in The Graduate.

Next time, I’ll tell you about what biologists are learning from aquarium otters.


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