The charismatic otter, a member of the weasel family, is found on every continent except Australia and Antarctica. Most are small, with short ears and noses, elongated bodies, long tails, and soft, dense fur.
There are 13 species in total, ranging from the small-clawed otter to the giant otter. Though most live in freshwater rivers, lakes, and wetlands, the sea otter and the smaller marine otter are found in the Pacific Ocean.
Webbed feet and powerful tails, which act like rudders, make otters strong swimmers. Their nostrils and ears close to keep water out, and waterproof fur keeps them warm. They must carefully groom their fur and furry undercoat to keep them clean and sealed off to water, because they’re not covered in a fatty layer like other seagoing creatures. Otters have the densest fur of any animal—as many as a million hairs per square inch in places.
(Continue Reading from National Geographic)
The Sea Otter was hunted to near extinction in the 19th century. Today the species is protected under the Endangered Species Act & Marine Mammal Protection Act. The Southern Sea Otter & Southwest Stock of Northern Sea Otters in Alaska are both listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act. (Continue Reading from Friends of the Sea Otter)