Ocean of Hope

10 Amazing Sea Otter Facts

sea otter facts
Tagged Sea Otter: photo by Cherilyn Chin

Here are 10 Amazing Sea Otter Facts:

1. Sea Otters are one of the few animals that use tools. They mainly use rocks, but have been seen using glass soda bottles and cement blocks.

2. Newborn pups cannot sink or dive.

3. Sea Otters have built in pockets under their arms.

4. A group of Sea Otters resting together is called a raft.

5. Sea Otters are the only marine mammal without a layer of blubber (fat).

6. Sea Otters’ fur has 10x # of hairs per square inch than we have on our entire head. (humans 100,000; otters 1,000,000)

7. Sea Otters’ teeth are strong enough to bite through the spines of a sea urchin, or crunch a clam shell open.

8. Wild adult Sea Otters eat 25% or more of their body weight a day, or more than 12 pounds of seafood. A 150 lb human would need to eat 37 lbs of food a day!

9. Sea Otters’ diets can consist of: crabs, mussels, clams, scallops, abalone, sea urchins, octopus, squid, snails, sea stars, and fat innkeeper worms.

And the last sea otter fact is:

10. Sea Otters’ only marine predators are humans, great white sharks, and killer whales.

Click here for “10 More Amazing Facts About Sea Otters”

Facts compiled from the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s book, Sea Otters by Marianne Riedman

For more information on Sea Otters see my previous post on Joy and Toola, Surrogate Sea Otter Moms Extraordinaire
and My Unforgettable Moment with Mae, the Sea Otter Mom at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

Also visit:
Sea Otter Awareness Week
Twitter: #seaotterweek
Monterey Bay Aquarium’s
Sea Otter Research and Conservation Program (SORAC)

Friends of the Sea Otter
Olive the Oiled Otter Facebook Page

Olive the Oiled Sea Otter

Sea Otter Santa Cruz Oil spill
Olive the Oiled Sea Otter and her new pup: photo by CA Dept of Fish & Game

Olive the Oiled Sea Otter
Sung to the lyrics of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”

Olive the oiled sea otter,
	was rescued from Santa Cruz.
She was picked up with care,
	for she had everything to lose.

She was given a bath,
	made of olive oil and soap.
It took a long time,
	before Olive was filled with hope.

She was released from Sunset Beach,
	and she played with the other otters.
She ate to her heart’s content, 
	before visiting other waters.

Then one foggy afternoon,
	Olive gave birth to a pup.
She groomed, licked, and nursed 
	for among oiled otters, this was a first.

Olive is now quite famous
	and her timing couldn’t be much better.
She and her fellow otters,
          are celebrating Sea Otter Awareness Week!

Sea Otter Awareness Week is September 23-29. Visit Sea Otter Week
See hashtags #seaotterweek and #OtterTwitterTakeover on Twitter
For more on Olive the (Formerly) Oiled Sea Otter, check out her Facebook page (search for “Olive” the Oiled Otter)!

Farewell to Joy and Toola, Surrogate Sea Otter Moms Extraordinaire at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

Joy the surrogate sea otter mother
Joy the Sea Otter (photo by Monterey Bay Aquarium)

I am sad to hear of the passing of one of the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s sea otter surrogate moms, Joy. It is also a sad day for the Sea Otter Research and Conservation Program (SORAC) because they have lost their top two prolific surrogate mothers in less than 6 months. I volunteered at SORAC for 4 years, and for the last 2 years I commuted two hours each way from Oakland to Monterey, California to make my Friday swing shift. It was an amazingly diverse bunch of people to work with, and for you statisticians, not only were the majority the paid workers and volunteers women, but an inordinate (50%?) were left handed!

I met Toola (who passed away March 3, 2012) when she was just “207,” and she had just become the first sea otter mother to adopt an orphan pup (#217) in captivity. SORAC had just installed closed circuit video cameras, and it was a joy to watch Toola so lovingly groom and feed her new pup.

Up to then, orphaned pups were cared for, hands on, by human surrogate mothers (or otter pops as we lovingly called the male workers!). The bond I felt holding that tiny and frail sea otter pup, only days old, in the palm of my hand is only matched by the birth of my own human children! That pup is now an adult exhibit sea otter, which makes me feel quite old. The first creature I ever bottle fed was a sea otter pup, and I had painstakingly hand shucked dozens of clams to make its formula! Every human sea otter surrogate mom would respond promptly to a pup’s signature ear piercing scream, “eek, eek, eek” as they would to a human baby’s cry.

Now onto boisterous Joy: I just remember hearing the radio and telephone calls that Joy was once again interacting with kayakers, and that it was time to pick her up. I occasionally participated in field rescues, but most of the time I was on the receiving end at the aquarium where I helped to cart around (SORAC uses dog kennels), weigh, and help the workers and veterinarian with a physical exam. There is nothing more surreal than seeing, under bright examination lights, a once screaming otter subdued under anesthesia with his or her massive set of chompers clasped around an intubation tube!

Once deemed captive, my only interaction with Joy was to throw food into her tank, and later clean her tank (the stench of which I remember quite well-rotting seafood mixed with sea otter poop). At least with her, we no longer had to use the Darth Vader suit that consisted of a black welder’s helmet and black poncho that we used with releasable sea otters so they did not imprint on humans. I also got to help with a few training sessions with her. Most sea otters adore shrimp and will gobble it up, and will cast aside squid thrown onto their chest!

So I hope both Toola and Joy are receiving all the shrimp they can eat up above, and I wish the next generation of surrogate sea otter moms good luck as they have a tough act to follow!