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Southern Sea Otter

Enhydra lutris nereis

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Southern Sea Otters once filled the waters off the Oregon Coast, but due to the popularity of their fur for human clothing, they were hunted to extinction in the state by the early twentieth century. Now, the only indigenous population of Southern Sea Otters resides along the coast of central California. These marine mammals spend their day around the massive kelp forests located just offshore. These underwater gardens are filled with the otter’s prey, including sea urchins, clams, crabs and abalone.

Despite the abundance of food in the kelp forest, the otter still has to work for its living. The otters may have to dive over three hundred feet (91 m) to reach their food while simultaneously keeping an eye open for Great White Sharks and Orcas who also prowl these habitats. Although there are concerted efforts to expand the North American population of otters, reintroduction into new areas has been difficult due to scarcity of habitat and a low birth rate.

They are related to the Northern Sea Otter found in Alaskan waters.

Range and Habitat

Historically, Southern Sea Otters could be found all along the west coast of North America up to Washington state. Currently, they are confined to the coast of central California.

Conservational Status

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