Here we go!
Today, we’re kicking off our Pick/Protect 21 for Oceans. Forever. contest with ourselves, and we’re counting down to World Oceans Day with day 21. Without further adieu, we’re proud to bring you…
the Sea Otter. Or, Enhydra lutris, if you haven’t been formally introduced.
Why you should pick it (as your fave):
Sea otters are aquatic in every way – they eat, sleep, hunt, birth and raise young – in the water. They do sometimes come ashore to sleep or rest, but they are truly water weasels.
They are members of the weasel family, can grow to four feet long and weigh up to 65 pounds. They can live 23 years, and have water-repellant fur to help them stay warm in sometimes-icy ocean waters.
Both their nostrils and ears close in the water, and they have webbed feet. They are extremely clean, constantly grooming their coats with their teeth and paws. They are the only otter species to give birth IN the water.
They sleep on their backs in the water, and use sharp rocks to smash open shells for their dinners. They can also dive up to 330 feet down into the ocean to grab their grub.
Why they need protecting:
Millions of sea otters were once hunted for their fur, and as a result, their numbers in the early 20th century were 2,000 – MAX. They almost became extinct.
Today, according to the website defenders.org, there are now approximately 2,800 southern sea otters off the coast of California, and about 66,400-77,300 northern sea otters living off the coast of Alaska, Canada and Washington, put together. There are approximately 15,000 in Russia. Japan has less than 12. Meaning, less than one dozen.
Southern (California) sea otters are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, as is the southwest stock of northern sea otters in Alaska.
Sea otters are in danger from oil spills, habitat loss and being trapped in fishing equipment. There’s a great video about what threatens California sea otters and some scientists who who study them here – go watch it!
How you can protect them:
Adopt a sea otter: The Defenders of Wildlife organization’s website offers three price levels of adoption – sea otter, sea otter family and sea otter group, and comes with a stuffed (adorable!) sea otter, certificate of adoption, a photo and a fact sheet (for the sea otter level, more for higher levels). Proceeds go to public education about sea otters and protection from threats like oil spills.
Then, go tell your family, friends and teachers -and O4E - all about sea otters and why you chose to PICK and PROTECT them, and why they should, too.