The Sea Otter lives in shallow water areas around the shores of the North Pacific. Interest in these rich furs initiated an era of exploitation which almost wiped out the sea otter. The few conservation measures that had been instituted by the Russians in their final years of occupation were dropped by the Americans, and hunting intensified. Sea otters became scarce. In 1960 the state of Alaska assumed management authority for sea otters. The management program conducted by the state include a successful number of sea otters to unoccupied habitat in Southeast Alaska, British Columbia, and Washington. Recovery of the Alaska Sea Otter population has been dramatic. Perhaps as few as 2,000 total animals exisited in 1911, but by the mid-1970's the Alaska population numbered between 110,000 and 160,000.
Most of the sea Otter habitat in Alaska has now been repopulated. Sea Otters are members of the weasel family and are related to the Mink and the River Otters. The adult male weight is about 80 pounds with some weighing up to 100 pounds. All adults reach a length of about 4.5 feet. The hind feet are webbed and are adapted to swimming. The toes on the forefeet are short and stiff, enabling the animal to deftly handle food. On land their gait is clumsy. Probably because of this vulnerability, they are seldom found more than a few yards from the water. Their fur, which is possibly the finest in the world, consists of a very dense underfur of inch-long fibers and sparse guard hairs. Unlike Seals which rely on a heavy layer of blubber for protection against the cold North Pacific waters, Sea Otters depend on air trapped in their fur for maintaining body temperature.
Sea Otters mate at all times of the year, and
young may be born in any season. However, in Alaska most pups are
born in late spring. A pup weighs about 4 pounds at birth and is
a light brown color. Sea Otters usually do not migrate. Sea
Urchins, crabs, mussels, octopus, other marine invertebrates, and fishes
make up a normal diet for Sea Otters. Sea Otters are hunted by Alaska
Natives for subsistence and products used in handcrafts. That's all
about Sea Otters for now, but more later!!!
Alaska Wildlife Notebook Series
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