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A Natural History Of Sea Otters

Learn more about sea otters and their ecosystem influence at the Vancouver Aquarium!


Status of Sea Otters

Due to the mass exploitation of the Fur Trade, sea otters are currently listed on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List.


Currently the biggest threat to sea otters are oil spills. Because sea otters do not have blubber they rely on the heat storage of their fur to survive. Oil clogs sea otter fur, making them unable to retain heat, resulting in hypothermia. The Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989 had the most recent threatening impact on the sea otter population.

Fun Facts About Sea Otters

  1. A sea otter in the wild typically eats a quarter of their body weight per day.
  2. Sea otters have built in ‘body pockets’ located under their arms
  3. Sea otters are one of the only marine animals to use tools
  4. Sea otters have 1 000 000 hairs per square inch of hair
  5. They are the only marine mammal without blubber

Nuclear Testing in Alaska

The arms race after world war II motivated the US to perform underground nuclear testing at Amchtika Island, Alaska. There were concerns raised about the close fault line, the geology, and natural habitat. However, testing still occurred in 1965, 1969 and 1971. There was radiation exposure, massive habitat destruction and wildlife loss, including 700-2,000 sea otters killed by the last test alone.


Amchitka Island http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/fe/Amchitka_Island_-_View_from_the_East_End_Looking_North.jpg


While this was not the main motivation for the translocation of sea otters away from Alaska, it resulted in the the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) playing a role in the movement of the otters.

Out of this came Greenpeace as a result of a group protesting the tests.

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