[1] The hunting of sea otters is no longer legal except for limited harvests by indigenous peoples in the United States. Southern sea otter belongs to family Mustelidae, the same as weasels and wolverines. Versions of a widespread Aleut legend tell of lovers or despairing women who plunge into the sea and become otters. [32] The fifth digit on each hind foot is longest, facilitating swimming while on its back, but making walking difficult. [63] Males that do not have territories tend to congregate in large, male-only groups,[63] and swim through female areas when searching for a mate. This population increased to over 5,600 in 2013 with an estimated annual growth rate of 7.2%, and their range on the island's west coast extended north to Cape Scott and across the Queen Charlotte Strait to the Broughton Archipelago and south to Clayoquot Sound and Tofino. [13] According to the U.S. Geological Survey and the CDC, northern sea otters off Washington have been infected with the H1N1 flu virus and "may be a newly identified animal host of influenza viruses". [130] In response to recovery efforts, the population climbed steadily from the mid-20th century through the early 2000s, then remained relatively flat from 2005 to 2014 at just under 3,000. Its foraging and eating habits are noteworthy in several respects. [168] So few remained, perhaps only 1,000–2,000 individuals in the wild, that many believed the species would become extinct. [69] Gestation appears to vary from four to twelve months, as the species is capable of delayed implantation followed by four months of pregnancy. Lifespan(M):10-15 years (F):15-20 years. (1963) "Museum materials on the Aleuts". The sea otter inhabits nearshore environments, where it dives to the sea floor to forage. [2] A subsequent international ban on hunting, sea otter conservation efforts, and reintroduction programs into previously populated areas have contributed to numbers rebounding, and the species occupies about two-thirds of its former range. The fifth digit or little toe is longer than all other otters, allowing the sea otter to spread its webbing wider when swimming. [71] Pup mortality is high, particularly during an individual's first winter – by one estimate, only 25% of pups survive their first year. [55] Mating takes place in the water and can be rough, the male biting the female on the muzzle – which often leaves scars on the nose – and sometimes holding her head under water. In 1970 and 1971, a total of 95 sea otters were transplanted from Amchitka Island, Alaska to the Southern Oregon coast. [105][106] In 1989, a separate colony was discovered in the central British Columbia coast. [87], There are several documented cases in which male sea otters have forcibly copulated with juvenile harbor seals, sometimes resulting in death. [24] For its size, the male otter's baculum is very large, massive and bent upwards, measuring 150 mm (5.9 in) in length and 15 mm (0.59 in) at the base. A major Ainu epic, the Kutune Shirka, tells the tale of wars and struggles over a golden sea otter. The Alaskan subspecies have predators on land such as coyotes or brown bears. It is not known if this colony, which numbered about 300 animals in 2004, was founded by transplanted otters or was a remnant population that had gone undetected. (1.8-2.3 kg). [140] However, male and female otters have been confirmed by scientists off shores of the Baja Peninsula in a 2014 study, who hypothesize that otter dispersed there beginning in 2005. Female sea otter is pregnant for four-and-a-half months. [123] Then, in response to lawsuits filed by the Santa Barbara-based Environmental Defense Center and the Otter Project, on 19 December 2012 the USFWS declared that the "no otter zone" experiment was a failure, and will protect the otters re-colonizing the coast south of Point Conception as threatened species. A remnant population survived off Vancouver Island into the 20th century, but it died out despite the 1911 international protection treaty, with the last sea otter taken near Kyuquot in 1929. Kelp forests sequester (absorb and capture) CO2 from the atmosphere through photosynthesis. [60] The Aleuts carved sea otter bones for use as ornaments and in games, and used powdered sea otter baculum as a medicine for fever. [173] The most widely accepted, but still controversial, hypothesis is that killer whales have been eating the otters. [74], Females become sexually mature at around three or four years of age and males at around five; however, males often do not successfully breed until a few years later. Three subspecies of the sea otter are recognized with distinct geographical distributions. [153] The role of sea otters in maintaining kelp forests has been observed to be more important in areas of open coast than in more protected bays and estuaries. [150] A 2007 Californian study demonstrated, in areas where food was relatively scarce, a wider variety of prey was consumed. [191], Since the mid-1970s, the beauty and charisma of the species have gained wide appreciation, and the sea otter has become an icon of environmental conservation. [129], Although the southern sea otter's range has continuously expanded from the remnant population of about 50 individuals in Big Sur since protection in 1911, from 2007 to 2010, the otter population and its range contracted and since 2010 has made little progress. Predator: Great White Shark. Southern sea otter is not a social animal as are other otter species and has been known to live alone. [120], In the late 1980s, the USFWS relocated about 140 southern sea otters to San Nicolas Island in southern California, in the hope of establishing a reserve population should the mainland be struck by an oil spill. Like their Northern Sea Otter cousins, these mammals prefer to spend their day around the massive kelp forests … [181] Scientists agree that sea otters and abalone fisheries cannot exist in the same area,[181] and the same is likely true for certain other types of shellfish, as well. Like other members of this family, they have very thick fur. [130][131] As of spring 2010, the northern boundary had moved from about Tunitas Creek to a point 2 km southeast of Pigeon Point, and the southern boundary has moved from approximately Coal Oil Point to Gaviota State Park. 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Protected subspecies include entanglement in fishing nets, oil spills and predation by the Company 1834.

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