Alaska Otters enjoy a life of relaxation. They can be divided into two families, Sea Otters and River Otters. They are members of the weasel family. Sea Otters dwell in the ocean near the shore, floating on their back, and anchored in place wrapped in ropes of kelp. Groups of Sea Otters floating together are called “rafts”.
They are playful, frolicking with each other, but may also have their alone time. They live on a diet of mostly shellfish. When foraging, they can dive up to 250 feet for a meal. They are also tool-users, and bring rocks to the surface to be used as hammers to liberate their meal from its shell. To maintain their body heat, Sea Otters eat about 20% of their body weight. They do not have an excess layer of blubber to keep warm, so they rely on the air layer in their fur.
They are subject to hypothermia if their fur is damaged by oil spill residue. Sadly, their luxurious fur coats were part of their detriment in the late 1700s through the early 1900s. This is when fur traders from Russia, America, and England almost wiped them out. Their numbers have rebounded significantly due to protective regulations. They are delicate creatures, and easily damaged by man-made pollution, disease, and entanglement in fishing nets.
Alaska Otters can weigh up to 100 pounds and be up to 5 feet in length.
River Otters live mostly in the Northern part of Alaska, but many thrive in the Southern parks established for their protection. These otters can be distinguished from their Sea Otter cousins by watching them in action. River otters do not form “rafts” or float on their backs. River Otters move effortlessly between the shore and the river. Sea Otters are clumsy when out of water, and trying to maneuver on land. Sea Otters are significantly larger and fluffier as well.
Alaska Otters are a joy to watch as it appears they are always having fun.