Monday, May 04, 2009

Otterly-ridiculous Southeast Alaska

September 2008
Early morning in Idaho inlet and this sea otter is out cruising looking for breakfast. Sea otters might reach 100 pounds, and they need to eat almost 35% of their body weight each and every day to feed their incredibly high metabolism. Though they seem like they might be related to seals and sea lions, sea otters are actually the largest and heaviest member of the weasel family.

This otter is working on a Dungeness crab in typical otter fashion; lying on its back in the water and using its belly for the breakfast table!

This pair of otters has scored a HUGE meal...a Giant Pacific Octopus! This is the largest octopus species in the world, with a record weight of over 150 lbs confirmed. It takes two otters just to keep the thing at the surface! Mmmm... a little sushi to start the day!

Grace, beauty, curiosity and of course their incredibly dense fur (almost a million hairs per square inch!) got these animals into all sorts of trouble when they were "discovered" by Georg Steller in 1741. From an historical population of between 150,000 and 300,000 otters they were quickly culled down to less than 2,000 individuals to feed the fur trade. Seems it doesn't pay to have the densest fur of any mammal on the planet.

With good management and protected status sea otter populations are on the rise here in Southeast Alaska. Here is a very rare sight indeed; a mother sea otter nursing her young while hauled out on land in the South Marble Islands. Many sea otters never come to shore at all, spending their entire lives at sea!
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