Printable Activities Make Travel Fun

Sea Otter

How much do you know about those lovable, fur-faced acrobats twisting and diving in kelp beds?

Sea otters are one of the few mammals, aside from primates (monkeys and apes), to use tools. Floating on the surface of the water, they sometimes place a rock on their chest, using it as a hard surface to smash open shelled food like clams and abalone. Have you ever wondered how otters carry all that stuff to the surface? In their armpits, in loose skin folds! Try that with an urchin--better yet, don't try it.

These resourceful animals even use kelp as an anchor, wrapping themselves in the long fronds to keep from floating away while they rest. Kelp also makes a great babysitter. Mom leashes her pup in kelp, letting it bob on the surface as she hunts for food, never having to worry about paying the sitter.

This year will mark the 7th annual Sea Otter Awareness Week. All across the United States, Canada, Australia and the Netherlands, aquariums are sponsoring events to teach the public about these endangered creatures.

For more information about otters and a list of events, visit the Defenders of Wildlife website,

Sea otter facts you ought to know:
  1. Size
    Sea otters are the largest member of the weasel family, but the smallest of all marine mammal. Males grow as large as 5 feet while the average length of adult females is 4 feet. Full grown otters weigh as much as an average 9 to 10 year old child. Baby otters weigh only 5 lbs at birth!
  2. In the wild they live up to 10 to 12 years of age; however, they can live as long as 25 years.
  3. Because they have no blubber, sea otters keep warm with their dense fur. They have the thickest, finest fur of any mammal, with up to 1 million hairs per square inch, and they need to keep clean to stay warm. This is why otters are so vulnerable to oil spills.
  4. Sea otters' webbed hind paws are ideal for a life spent almost entirely in the water.
  5. A Big Appetite.
    Otters need to eat 25 to 30 percent of their weight every day just to stay warm. A 100 lb person would have to eat 100 quarter-pound burgers a day to keep up! Their diet consists mainly of clams, urchins, mussels, crabs and fish.
  6. Sea otters are social critters. They meet and play in groups of less than 10, to more than 100, called rafts. The moms and pups stay together in one group, separate from the males.
  7. Although moms usually give birth to one pup at a time, they sometimes give birth to twins. Unfortunately, only one pup will survive.

Fold an Origami Sea Otter

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