It is not uncommon to see these playful animals lying on their
backs and floating around
Avila bay. In the past few years their sightings have increased
according to local college students who visit the bay frequently.
There has been no hands on research planned for the California
sea otter due to the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act,
but further research on the species itself is possible.
Order – Carnivora
Family – Mustelidae
Genus, Species – Enhydra Lutris nereis
Distribution and Habitat
California Sea Otters are found off the coast of central California,
usually between Santa Cruz and Pt. Conception. They rarely are
found more than 1 km (0.6 mi) from the shore. Sea Otters spend
their entire life at sea, but sometimes that rest on rocky shores.
In the water, they prefer to reside among beds of kelp due to
the added protection and food sources the kelp provides. A 1996
survey determined that the California Sea Otter population was
roughly round 2,400 animals, and hopefully this number has increased
Male California sea otters reach sizes up to 4 feet in length
and 64 pounds while females are a little bit smaller reaching
lengths up to 3.5 feet and 44 pounds.
Sea otters have small dexterous forefeet with retractive claws.
They use these feet for grooming, finding food, and eating,
but not for swimming. Their flipper-like hind feet are large,
broad, and webbed and propel them through the water. The outer
digits of their hind feet are the longest.
A sea otter's nose pad is large, bare, black, and diamond shaped.
An adult female's nose pad often bears pink scars from wounds
incurred during mating, when the male grasps her nose with his
The fur of the sea otter is the densest of any mammal. Highest
density occurs on the forearms, sides, and rump; lowest density
occurs on the chest, legs, and feet. The average density is
about 650,000 hairs per square inch. A single large male may
have over 800 million hair fibers covering its body.
All otters must continually groom their fur to maintain its
insulating qualities. Researchers have observed sea otters spending
at least 11% to 48% of their day grooming. They use their paws
and claws to remove debris and comb their fur. They may also
aerate their fur by blowing air into it and beating the water
with their feet to whip it into foam. An otter's flexible body
and loose-fitting skin allow it to reach every part of its fur.
Sea otters are basically solitary. Males and females occupy
separate sections of the coastline, and only come together briefly
for mating. Males do not exhibit strong territorial behavior
and do not drive other males away when in female territories.
Sea otter's scent is the most important sense for communication.
Each otter's character scent is as unique as a fingerprint,
and conveys such information as identity, age, sex, and breeding
Similar to all other mammals, California sea otters are protected
by law. The U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 made it
illegal to hunt or harass any marine mammal in U.S. waters.
The primary objective of the MMPA is to maintain the health
and stability of the marine ecosystem and to maintain an optimum
population of marine animals.