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Northern Sea Otter

Enhydra lutris kenyoni

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Sea Otters are the smallest marine mammal in North America and are related to River Otters, skunks, weasels and badgers. Adult males will weigh up to 100 pounds (45 kg) and measure 4.5 feet (1.3 m) in length. with the tail accounting for a third of the length. Females are slightly smaller. There are two varieties of sea otter in North America. The Northern Sea Otter is slightly larger and heavier than its southern cousin and feeds mostly on invertebrates such as chitons, urchins, limpets, snails and fish. Extremely social animals, they will congregate in large groups called “rafts.” Females and males generally won’t socialize except during mating season.

Since otters do not have a blubber layer like other marine mammals, they rely on extremely dense fur to protect them from the water and cold temperatures. Air caught between the hairs adds additional insulation but requires constant grooming.

The major predator of the Northern Sea Otter is the Orca.

Range and Habitat

As their name suggests, this otter subspecies can be found at more northern latitudes, which in North America includes the coast of Alaska and the nearby islands. The range of the otter has been dramatically reduced in the past two centuries. Their historical distribution ran from northern Japan to Baja Mexico. Today, Northern Sea Otters are found almost exclusively in Alaskan waters.

Conservational Status

Threatened. This animal is protected by the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act.