Animal shows often feature the playful antics of the river otter. But still another otter, the sea otter, lives along the Pacific coast of North America from California to Alaska and down the Pacific coast of Asia to the Commander Islands of Russia. The largest of all otter species, the sea otter grows to a length of five feet and to a weight of 80 pounds.
The sea otter’s pelt was at one time among the most highly prized of all furs. During the height of the fur trade era in the early 1900s a single pelt was worth as much as $ 2,500. Unfortunately for their survival, these adorable sea mammals are naturally friendly to people, so they didn’t stand a chance against greedy fur traders. Within a few short years the number of sea otters became so low that the animal was perilously close to extinction. Hunters slaughtered them by the thousands until 1911. In that year Russia, Japan, Great Britain, and the United States entered into an international treaty that made it illegal to kill any more of them.
An expert swimmer, the sea otter often dives 100 feet below the ocean’s surface to find a sea urchin, a clam, an abalone, or some other kind of shellfish to eat. When it has grabbed a tasty seafood dinner, the creature swims to the surface, rolls over onto its back, and spreads out its food on its chest and belly. If the meal is a clam, the otter places the shell on its chest, picks up a handy rock, and hammers away until the shell cracks open.
Sea otters mate for life. Home is a bed of kelp, a type of giant seaweed that grows thick enough to provide a mattress for the pup and to protect the otters from killer whales. The whales can’t swim through the kelp.
But the pup’s favorite place is on its mother’s tummy, where it is safe from just about everything but a marauding bald eagle. The mother’s abdomen is the pup’s sleeping crib, feeding place, and playpen for eight or more months. Often the mother throws the pup into the air and catches it again on her chest in a game that certainly looks like fun. To protect her pup, the mother sea otter stays in the thick kelp beds and watches for the bald eagle. Aren’t you glad God made mothers?
“As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you.” Isaiah 66:13
From “Nature Quest”, by James and Priscilla Tucker.
Picture is from Google Images.