While Sea Otter Awareness Week may be an excuse to bombard yourself with tons of adorable pictures of the furry critters, it’s also a chance to focus on conservation efforts and raising awareness about the issues sea otters face.
According to the IUCN, sea otters are considered endangered due to large-scale population declines, which have exceeded 50% during the last 30 years. With a population once thought to be around 150,000 to 300,000, estimates from 2004 and 2007 now place the sea otter population around 106,800.
Now in its 11th year, Sea Otter Awareness Week has been educating the public about the vital role sea otters play in their marine ecosystems, conservation efforts, and the natural history of sea otters.
Unlike the river otters at The Maritime Aquarium, sea otters only exist in oceanic environments. River otters can inhabit both freshwater rivers and streams as well coastal saltwater environments.
So, besides where they live, are there any difference between sea otters and river otters? Yes! Many things separate them. Here are some main differences:
- River otters are smaller than sea otters. Adult river otters weigh between 20-25 pounds. Fully grown sea otters weigh between 50-100 pounds.
- At the Aquarium, you can often see the river otters diving in and out of the water, adept underwater and as well as on land. Sea otters move more awkwardly on land and don’t leave the water as much, and they prefer to float rather than swim.
- River otters typically are either solitary or found in family groups. Sea otters tend to keep to small or large groups.
- River otters have course fur and a layer of blubber. Sea otters don’t have that blubber layer and have a denser coat.
- River otters are found naturally found in Connecticut – sea otters aren’t (unless in zoos or aquariums!
5 Fun Facts about Sea Otters
- There are three subspecies of sea otters: Southern Sea Otter, Northern Sea Otter, and Russian Sea Otter. There are found throughout California, Washington, Canada, Alaska, Russian and some have been reported in Japan.
- Sea otters eat between 25%-30% of their body weight in food each day.
- The longest recorded dive by a sea otter was seven minutes long.
- The deepest recorded dive was 318 feet.
- Sea otters have anywhere between 170,000 to more than 1 million hairs per inch! To compare, the human head only has 700 hairs per square inch.
You can learn even more about sea otters here.