Alaskan Sea Otter

posted Jan 2, 2012, 7:54 PM by Jason Stanley   [ updated Jan 2, 2012, 7:54 PM by Jacqui Stanley ]

It is a beautiful sunny July day and we are quietly paddling around Indian Island. We are all sitting very still in the skiff, our eyes focused on the shore and the kelp beds, hoping to see a sea otter.

We round the shore, and see several otter families. We keep a good distance, not wanting to stress the otters and their pups. Our long camera lenses give us a great view of the otter families and we let the tide take us quietly away from the small cove that is home to the sea otters.

Suddenly, it seems, someone whispers, “Look!” and right near our skiff we see the otter paddling calmly past us, checking out these strange creatures. I quickly fire off a bunch of images, hoping I am on the right settings for at least one crispy photograph.

The little otter calmly looks at me and then it is gone.

We are all thrilled to see the animal at such close quarters, and we all agree they are the cutest animals.

They are, in fact, members of the weasel family. They spend most of their life on the water, but sometimes they come ashore to rest or sleep. They have webbed feet, water-repellent fur, which properly groomed, keeps them warm and dry and they can close their nostrils and ears when they dive beneath the surface. Our guide tells us that the sea otters can handle food and they can often be seen using simple tools to eat their food, such as sea urchins, mussels, clams, octopus and even fish. They place the food on their chests and eat it piece by piece using their forepaws and sometimes they use a rock to crack open shells. The search for food is the most important daily activities of sea otters and feeding dives can last as long as five minutes. 

We watch the sea otter families for a while, and we smile as we see them raft up in the kelp. 

The sun is shining on the families and the otters are so endearing as they incessantly groom their fur and fluff up their cheeks.