The sea otter (Enhydra lutris) is a marine mammal native to the coasts
of the northern and eastern North Pacific Ocean. Adult sea otters
typically weigh between 14 and 45 kg (31 and 99 lb), making
them the heaviest members of the weasel family, but among the smallest
marine mammals. Unlike most marine mammals, the sea otter's primary
form of insulation is an exceptionally thick coat of fur, the densest
in the animal kingdom. Although it can walk on land, the sea otter is
capable of living exclusively in the ocean.
The sea otter inhabits nearshore environments, where it dives to the
sea floor to forage. It preys mostly on marine invertebrates such as
sea urchins, various molluscs and crustaceans, and some species of
fish. Its foraging and eating habits are noteworthy in several
respects. First, its use of rocks to dislodge prey and to open shells
makes it one of the few mammal species to use tools. In most of its
range, it is a keystone species, controlling sea urchin populations
which would otherwise inflict extensive damage to kelp forest
ecosystems. Its diet includes prey species that are also valued by
humans as food, leading to conflicts between sea otters and fisheries.
Sea otters, whose numbers were once estimated at 150,000–300,000,
were hunted extensively for their fur between 1741 and 1911, and the
world population fell to 1,000–2,000 individuals living in a
fraction of their historic range. A subsequent international ban on
hunting, 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
recovery of the sea otter is considered an important success in marine
conservation, although populations in the
Aleutian Islands and
California have recently declined or have plateaued at depressed
levels. For these reasons, the sea otter remains classified as an
2 Physical characteristics
3.2 Social structure
3.3 Reproduction and lifecycle
4 Population and distribution
4.3 British Columbia
5.2 As a keystone species
6 Relationship with humans
6.2 Recovery and conservation
6.3 Economic impact
6.4 Roles in human cultures
6.5 Aquariums and zoos
7 See also
9 External links
Pteronura (giant otter)
Lontra (4 species)
Enhydra (sea otter)
Lutra (2 species)
Cladogram showing relationships between sea otters and other
The first scientific description of the sea otter is contained in the
field notes of
Georg Steller from 1751, and the species was described
by Linnaeus in his
Systema Naturae of 1758. Originally named Lutra
marina, it underwent numerous name changes before being accepted as
Enhydra lutris in 1922. The generic name Enhydra, derives from the
Ancient Greek en/εν "in" and hydra/ύδρα "water", meaning "in
the water", and the
Latin word lutris, meaning "otter".
The sea otter was formerly sometimes referred to as the "sea
beaver", being the marine fur-bearer similar in commercial value
to the terrestrial beaver. Rodents (of which the beaver is one) are
not closely related to otters, which are carnivorans. It is not to be
confused with the marine otter, a rare otter species native to the
southern west coast of South America. A number of other otter species,
while predominantly living in fresh water, are commonly found in
marine coastal habitats. The extinct sea mink of northeast North
America is another mustelid that had adapted to a marine environment.
The sea otter is the heaviest (the giant otter is longer, but
significantly slimmer) member of the family Mustelidae, a diverse
group that includes the 13 otter species and terrestrial animals such
as weasels, badgers, and minks. It is unique among the mustelids in
not making dens or burrows, in having no functional anal scent
glands, and in being able to live its entire life without leaving
the water. The only member of the genus Enhydra, the sea otter is
so different from other mustelid species that, as recently as 1982,
some scientists believed it was more closely related to the earless
seals. Genetic analysis indicates the sea otter and its closest
extant relatives, which include the African speckle-throated otter,
African clawless otter
African clawless otter and oriental small-clawed
otter, shared an ancestor approximately 5 Mya (million years ago).
Fossil evidence indicates the Enhydra lineage became isolated in the
North Pacific approximately 2 Mya, giving rise to the now-extinct
Enhydra macrodonta and the modern sea otter, Enhydra lutris. One
related species has been described, Enhydra reevei, from the
Pleistocene of East Anglia. The modern sea otter evolved initially
Hokkaidō and Russia, and then spread east to the Aleutian
Islands, mainland Alaska, and down the North American coast. In
comparison to cetaceans, sirenians, and pinnipeds, which entered the
water approximately 50, 40, and 20 Mya, respectively, the sea otter is
a relative newcomer to a marine existence. In some respects,
though, the sea otter is more fully adapted to water than pinnipeds,
which must haul out on land or ice to give birth. The full genome
of the northern sea otter (Enhydra lutris kenyoni) was sequenced in
2017 and may allow for examination of the sea otter's evolutionary
divergence from terrestrial mustelids.
Three subspecies of the sea otter are recognized with distinct
geographical distributions. Enhydra lutris lutris (nominate), the
Asian sea otter, ranges from the
Kuril Islands north of Japan to
Commander Islands in the western Pacific Ocean. In the
eastern Pacific Ocean, E. l. kenyoni, the northern sea otter, is found
Aleutian Islands to Oregon and E. l. nereis, the
southern sea otter, is native to central and southern California.
The Asian sea otter is the largest subspecies and has a slightly wider
skull and shorter nasal bones than both other subspecies. Northern sea
otters possess longer mandibles (lower jaws) while southern sea otters
have longer rostrums and smaller teeth.
A sea otter's thick fur makes its body appear plumper on land than in
The sea otter is one of the smallest marine mammal species, but it is
the heaviest mustelid. Male sea otters usually weigh 22 to
45 kg (49 to 99 lb) and are 1.2 to 1.5 m (3 ft
11 in to 4 ft 11 in) in length, though specimens to
54 kg (119 lb) have been recorded. Females are smaller,
weighing 14 to 33 kg (31 to 73 lb) and measuring 1.0 to
1.4 m (3 ft 3 in to 4 ft 7 in) in length.
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.
Unlike most other marine mammals, the sea otter has no blubber and
relies on its exceptionally thick fur to keep warm. With up to
150,000 strands of hair per square centimeter (nearly one million per
sq in), its fur is the densest of any animal. The fur
consists of long, waterproof guard hairs and short underfur; the guard
hairs keep the dense underfur layer dry. Cold water is kept completely
away from the skin and heat loss is limited. The fur is thick
year-round, as it is shed and replaced gradually rather than in a
distinct molting season. As the ability of the guard hairs to
repel water depends on utmost cleanliness, the sea otter has the
ability to reach and groom the fur on any part of its body, taking
advantage of its loose skin and an unusually supple skeleton. The
coloration of the pelage is usually deep brown with silver-gray
speckles, but it can range from yellowish or grayish brown to almost
black. In adults, the head, throat, and chest are lighter in color
than the rest of the body.
The sea otter displays numerous adaptations to its marine environment.
The nostrils and small ears can close. The hind feet, which
provide most of its propulsion in swimming, are long, broadly
flattened, and fully webbed. The fifth digit on each hind foot is
longest, facilitating swimming while on its back, but making walking
difficult. The tail is fairly short, thick, slightly flattened,
and muscular. The front paws are short with retractable claws, with
tough pads on the palms that enable gripping slippery prey. The
bones show osteosclerosis, increasing their density to reduce
Skull, as illustrated by N. N. Kondakov
The sea otter propels itself underwater by moving the rear end of its
body, including its tail and hind feet, up and down, and is
capable of speeds of up to 9 km/h (5.6 mph). When
underwater, its body is long and streamlined, with the short forelimbs
pressed closely against the chest. When at the surface, it usually
floats on its back and moves by sculling its feet and tail from side
to side. At rest, all four limbs can be folded onto the torso to
conserve heat, whereas on particularly hot days, the hind feet may be
held underwater for cooling. The sea otter's body is highly
buoyant because of its large lung capacity – about 2.5 times greater
than that of similar-sized land mammals – and the air trapped in
its fur. The sea otter walks with a clumsy, rolling gait on land, and
can run in a bounding motion.
Long, highly sensitive whiskers and front paws help the sea otter find
prey by touch when waters are dark or murky. Researchers have
noted when they approach in plain view, sea otters react more rapidly
when the wind is blowing towards the animals, indicating the sense of
smell is more important than sight as a warning sense. Other
observations indicate the sea otter's sense of sight is useful above
and below the water, although not as good as that of seals. Its
hearing is neither particularly acute nor poor.
An adult's 32 teeth, particularly the molars, are flattened and
rounded for crushing rather than cutting food. Seals and sea
otters are the only carnivores with two pairs of lower incisor teeth
rather than three; the adult dental formula is 188.8.131.52.1.3.2
The sea otter has a metabolic rate two or three times that of
comparatively sized terrestrial mammals. It must eat an estimated 25
to 38% of its own body weight in food each day to burn the calories
necessary to counteract the loss of heat due to the cold water
environment. Its digestive efficiency is estimated at 80 to
85%, and food is digested and passed in as little as three
hours. Most of its need for water is met through food, although,
in contrast to most other marine mammals, it also drinks seawater. Its
relatively large kidneys enable it to derive fresh water from sea
water and excrete concentrated urine.
Sensitive vibrissae and forepaws enable sea otters to find prey (like
this purple sea urchin) using their sense of touch.
The sea otter is diurnal. It has a period of foraging and eating in
the morning, starting about an hour before sunrise, then rests or
sleeps in mid-day. Foraging resumes for a few hours in the
afternoon and subsides before sunset, and a third foraging period may
occur around midnight. Females with pups appear to be more
inclined to feed at night. Observations of the amount of time a
sea otter must spend each day foraging range from 24 to 60%,
apparently depending on the availability of food in the area.
Sea otters spend much of their time grooming, which consists of
cleaning the fur, untangling knots, removing loose fur, rubbing the
fur to squeeze out water and introduce air, and blowing air into the
fur. To casual observers, it appears as if the animals are scratching,
but they are not known to have lice or other parasites in the fur.
When eating, sea otters roll in the water frequently, apparently to
wash food scraps from their fur.
The sea otter hunts in short dives, often to the sea floor. Although
it can hold its breath for up to five minutes, its dives typically
last about one minute and no more than four. It is the only marine
animal capable of lifting and turning over rocks, which it often does
with its front paws when searching for prey. The sea otter may
also pluck snails and other organisms from kelp and dig deep into
underwater mud for clams. It is the only marine mammal that
catches fish with its forepaws rather than with its teeth.
Under each foreleg, the sea otter has a loose pouch of skin that
extends across the chest. In this pouch (preferentially the left one),
the animal stores collected food to bring to the surface. This pouch
also holds a rock, unique to the otter, that is used to break open
shellfish and clams. There, the sea otter eats while floating on
its back, using its forepaws to tear food apart and bring it to its
mouth. It can chew and swallow small mussels with their shells,
whereas large mussel shells may be twisted apart. It uses its
lower incisor teeth to access the meat in shellfish. To eat large
sea urchins, which are mostly covered with spines, the sea otter bites
through the underside where the spines are shortest, and licks the
soft contents out of the urchin's shell.
The sea otter's use of rocks when hunting and feeding makes it one of
the few mammal species to use tools. To open hard shells, it may
pound its prey with both paws against a rock on its chest. To pry an
abalone off its rock, it hammers the abalone shell using a large
stone, with observed rates of 45 blows in 15 seconds. Releasing an
abalone, which can cling to rock with a force equal to 4,000 times its
own body weight, requires multiple dives.
Sleeping sea otters holding paws at the Vancouver Aquarium are
kept afloat by their naturally high buoyancy.
Although each adult and independent juvenile forages alone, sea otters
tend to rest together in single-sex groups called rafts. A raft
typically contains 10 to 100 animals, with male rafts being larger
than female ones. The largest raft ever seen contained over 2000
sea otters. To keep from drifting out to sea when resting and eating,
sea otters may wrap themselves in kelp.
A male sea otter is most likely to mate if he maintains a breeding
territory in an area that is also favored by females. As autumn is
the peak breeding season in most areas, males typically defend their
territory only from spring to autumn. During this time, males
patrol the boundaries of their territories to exclude other males,
although actual fighting is rare. Adult females move freely
between male territories, where they outnumber adult males by an
average of five to one. Males that do not have territories tend to
congregate in large, male-only groups, and swim through female
areas when searching for a mate.
The species exhibits a variety of vocal behaviors. The cry of a pup is
often compared to that of a seagull. Females coo when they are
apparently content; males may grunt instead. Distressed or
frightened adults may whistle, hiss, or in extreme circumstances,
scream. Although sea otters can be playful and sociable, they are
not considered to be truly social animals. They spend much time
alone, and each adult can meet its own needs in terms of hunting,
grooming, and defense.
Reproduction and lifecycle
While mating the male bites the nose of the female, often bloodying
and scarring it.
Sea otters are polygynous: males have multiple female partners.
However, temporary pair-bonding occurs for a few days between a female
in estrus and her mate. 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
Births occur year-round, with peaks between May and June in northern
populations and between January and March in southern populations.
Gestation appears to vary from four to twelve months, as the species
is capable of delayed implantation followed by four months of
pregnancy. In California, sea otters usually breed every year,
about twice as often as those in Alaska.
Birth usually takes place in the water and typically produces a single
pup weighing 1.4 to 2.3 kg (3 to 5 lb). Twins occur in
2% of births; however, usually only one pup survives. At birth,
the eyes are open, ten teeth are visible, and the pup has a thick coat
of baby fur. Mothers have been observed to lick and fluff a
newborn for hours; after grooming, the pup's fur retains so much air,
the pup floats like a cork and cannot dive. The fluffy baby fur is
replaced by adult fur after about 13 weeks.
A mother floats with her pup on her chest.
Georg Steller wrote, "They
embrace their young with an affection that is scarcely credible."
Nursing lasts six to eight months in Californian populations and four
to twelve months in Alaska, with the mother beginning to offer bits of
prey at one to two months. The milk from a sea otter's two
abdominal nipples is rich in fat and more similar to the milk of other
marine mammals than to that of other mustelids. A pup, with
guidance from its mother, practices swimming and diving for several
weeks before it is able to reach the sea floor. Initially, the objects
it retrieves are of little food value, such as brightly colored
starfish and pebbles. Juveniles are typically independent at six
to eight months, but a mother may be forced to abandon a pup if she
cannot find enough food for it; at the other extreme, a pup may
nurse until it is almost adult size. Pup mortality is high,
particularly during an individual's first winter – by one
estimate, only 25% of pups survive their first year. Pups born to
experienced mothers have the highest survival rates.
Females perform all tasks of feeding and raising offspring, and have
occasionally been observed caring for orphaned pups. Much has been
written about the level of devotion of sea otter mothers for their
pups – a mother gives her infant almost constant attention,
cradling it on her chest away from the cold water and attentively
grooming its fur. When foraging, she leaves her pup floating on
the water, sometimes wrapped in kelp to keep it from floating
away; if the pup is not sleeping, it cries loudly until she
returns. Mothers have been known to carry their pups for days
after the pups' deaths.
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. A captive male sired offspring at
age 19. In the wild, sea otters live to a maximum age of 23
years, with average lifespans of 10–15 years for males and
15–20 years for females. Several captive individuals have lived
past 20 years, and a female at the
Seattle Aquarium died at the age of
28 years. Sea otters in the wild often develop worn teeth, which
may account for their apparently shorter lifespans.
There are several documented cases in which male sea otters have
forcibly copulated with juvenile harbor seals, sometimes resulting in
death. Similarly, forced copulation by sea otters involving
animals other than Pacific harbor seals has occasionally been
Population and distribution
Sea otters live in coastal waters 15 to 23 meters (50 to
75 ft) deep, and usually stay within a kilometer
(⅔ mi) of the shore. They are found most often in areas
with protection from the most severe ocean winds, such as rocky
coastlines, thick kelp forests, and barrier reefs. Although they
are most strongly associated with rocky substrates, sea otters can
also live in areas where the sea floor consists primarily of mud,
sand, or silt. Their northern range is limited by ice, as sea
otters can survive amidst drift ice but not land-fast ice.
Individuals generally occupy a home range a few kilometers long, and
remain there year-round.
The sea otter population is thought to have once been 150,000 to
300,000, stretching in an arc across the North Pacific from
northern Japan to the central Baja
California Peninsula in Mexico. The
fur trade that began in the 1740s reduced the sea otter's numbers to
an estimated 1,000 to 2,000 members in 13 colonies. In about
two-thirds of its former range, the species is at varying levels of
recovery, with high population densities in some areas and threatened
populations in others. Sea otters currently have stable populations in
parts of the Russian east coast, Alaska, British Columbia, Washington,
and California, with reports of recolonizations in
Japan. Population estimates made between 2004 and 2007 give a
worldwide total of approximately 107,000 sea
Currently, the most stable and secure part of the sea otter's range is
Russia. Before the 19th century, around 20,000 to 25,000 sea
otters lived near the Kuril Islands, with more near
Kamchatka and the
Commander Islands. After the years of the Great Hunt, the population
in these areas, currently part of Russia, was only 750. By 2004,
sea otters had repopulated all of their former habitat in these areas,
with an estimated total population of about 27,000. Of these, about
19,000 are at the Kurils, 2,000 to 3,500 at
Kamchatka and another
5,000 to 5,500 at the Commander Islands. Growth has slowed
slightly, suggesting the numbers are reaching carrying capacity.
Alaska is the heartland of the sea otter's range. In 1973, the
Alaska was estimated at between 100,000 and 125,000
animals. By 2006, though, the
Alaska population had fallen to an
estimated 73,000 animals. A massive decline in sea otter
populations in the
Aleutian Islands accounts for most of the change;
the cause of this decline is not known, although orca predation is
suspected. The sea otter population in
Prince William Sound
Prince William Sound was
also hit hard by the Exxon Valdez oil spill, which killed thousands of
sea otters in 1989.
Along the North American coast south of Alaska, the sea otter's range
is discontinuous. 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.
From 1969 to 1972, 89 sea otters were flown or shipped from
the west coast of Vancouver Island. This population expanded to over
3,200 in 2004, and their range on the island's west coast expanded
from Cape Scott in the north to
Barkley Sound to the south. In
1989, a separate colony was discovered in the central British Columbia
coast. It is not known if this colony, which numbered about 300
animals in 2004, was founded by transplanted otters or by survivors of
the fur trade. In 2008, Canada determined the status of sea otters
to be "special concern", based off 4,700 individuals recorded off the
coast of central British Columbia and the west coast of Vancouver
In 1969 and 1970, 59 sea otters were translocated from Amchitka Island
to Washington. Annual surveys between 2000 and 2004 have recorded
between 504 and 743 individuals, and their range is in the Olympic
Peninsula from just south of Destruction Island to Pillar Point. In
Washington, sea otters are found almost exclusively on the outer
coasts. They can swim as close as six feet off shore along the Olympic
coast. Reported sightings of sea otters in the
San Juan Islands
San Juan Islands and
Puget Sound almost always turn out to be North American river otters,
which are commonly seen along the seashore. However, biologists have
confirmed isolated sightings of sea otters in these areas since the
The last native sea otter in Oregon was probably shot and killed in
1906. In 1970 and 1971, a total of 95 sea otters were transplanted
from Amchitka Island,
Alaska to the Southern Oregon coast. However,
this translocation effort failed and otters soon again disappeared
from the state. In 2004, a male sea otter took up residence at
Simpson Reef off of Cape Arago for six months. This male is thought to
have originated from a colony in Washington, but disappeared after a
coastal storm. On 18 February 2009, a male sea otter was spotted
Depoe Bay off the Oregon Coast. It could have traveled to the state
California or Washington.
California's remote areas of coastline sheltered small colonies of sea
otters through the fur trade. The 50 that survived in California,
which were rediscovered in 1938, have since reproduced to almost
The historic population of
California sea otters was estimated at
16,000 before the fur trade decimated the population, leading to their
assumed extinction. Today's population of
California sea otters are
the descendants of a single colony of about 50 sea otters located near
Bixby Creek Bridge
Bixby Creek Bridge in March 1938 by Howard G. Sharpe, owner of the
nearby Rainbow Lodge on Bixby Bridge in Big Sur. Their
principal range has gradually expanded and extends from Pigeon Point
San Mateo County
San Mateo County to Santa Barbara County.
Sea otters were once numerous in San Francisco Bay. Historical
records revealed the
Russian-American Company sneaked Aleuts into San
Francisco Bay multiple times, despite the Spanish capturing or
shooting them while hunting sea otters in the estuaries of San Jose,
San Mateo, San Bruno and around Angel Island. The founder of Fort
Ross, Ivan Kuskov, finding otters scarce on his second voyage to
Bodega Bay in 1812, sent a party of Aleuts to San Francisco Bay, where
they met another Russian party and an American party, and caught 1,160
sea otters in three months. By 1817, sea otters in the area were
practically eliminated and the Russians sought permission from the
Spanish and the Mexican governments to hunt further and further south
of San Francisco. Remnant sea otter populations may have survived
in the bay until 1840, when the
Rancho Punta de Quentin was granted to
Captain John B. R. Cooper, a sea captain from Boston, by Mexican
Juan Bautista Alvarado
Juan Bautista Alvarado along with a license to hunt sea
otters, reportedly then prevalent at the mouth of Corte Madera
In the late 1980s, the USFWS relocated about 140 southern sea otters
San Nicolas Island
San Nicolas Island in southern California, in the hope of
establishing a reserve population should the mainland be struck by an
oil spill. To the surprise of biologists, the San Nicolas sea otters
mostly swam back to the mainland. By 2005, only 30 sea otters
remained at San Nicolas, although they were slowly increasing as
they thrived on the abundant prey around the island. The plan
that authorized the translocation program had predicted the carrying
capacity would be reached within five to 10 years. The spring
2016 count at
San Nicolas Island
San Nicolas Island was 104 sea otters, continuing a
5-year positive trend of over 12% per year. Sea otters were
observed twice in Southern
California in 2011, once near Laguna Beach
and once at Zuniga Point Jetty, near San Diego. These are the first
documented sightings of otters this far south in 30 years.
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, however from 2007 to 2010, the otter population
and its range contracted and since 2010 has made little
progress. As of spring 2010, the northern boundary had moved
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. Recently, a toxin called
microcystin, produced by a type of cyanobacteria (Microcystis), seems
to be concentrated in the shellfish the otters eat, poisoning them.
Cyanobacteria are found in stagnant freshwater enriched with nitrogen
and phosphorus from septic tank and agricultural fertilizer runoff,
and may be flushed into the ocean when streamflows are high in the
rainy season. A record number of sea otter carcasses were
found on California's coastline in 2010, with increased shark attacks
an increasing component of the mortality. Great white sharks do
not consume relatively fat-poor sea otters but shark-bitten carcasses
have increased from 8% in the 1980s to 15% in the 1990s and to 30% in
2010 and 2011.
For southern sea otters to be considered for removal from threatened
species listing, the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) determined
that the population should exceed 3,090 for three consecutive
years. In response to recovery efforts, the population climbed
steadily from the mid-20th century through the early 2000s, then
remained relatively flat from 2005–2014 at just under 3,000. There
was some contraction from the northern (now Pigeon Point) and southern
limits of the sea otter's range during the end of this period,
circumstantially related to an increase in lethal shark bites, raising
concerns that the population had reached a plateau. However, the
population increased markedly from 2015–2016, with the United States
Geological Survey (USGS)
California sea otter survey 3-year average
reaching 3,272 in 2016, the first time it exceeded the threshold for
delisting from the
Endangered Species Act
Endangered Species Act (ESA). If populations
continued to grow and ESA delisting occurred, southern sea otters
would still be fully protected by state regulations and the Marine
Mammal Protection Act, which set higher thresholds for protection, at
approximately 8,400 individuals. However, ESA delisting seems
unlikely due to a precipitous population decline recorded in the
USGS sea otter survey count, from the 2016 high of 3,615
individuals to 2,688, a loss of 25% of the
California sea otter
Sea otters consume over 100 prey species. In most of its range,
the sea otter's diet consists almost exclusively of marine benthic
invertebrates, including sea urchins, fat innkeeper worms, a variety
of bivalves such as clams and mussels, abalone, other mollusks,
crustaceans, and snails. Its prey ranges in size from tiny
limpets and crabs to giant octopuses. Where prey such as sea
urchins, clams, and abalone are present in a range of sizes, sea
otters tend to select larger items over smaller ones of similar
type. In California, they have been noted to ignore Pismo clams
smaller than 3 inches (7 cm) across.
In a few northern areas, fish are also eaten. In studies performed at
Amchitka Island in the 1960s, where the sea otter population was at
carrying capacity, 50% of food found in sea otter stomachs was
fish. The fish species were usually bottom-dwelling and sedentary
or sluggish forms, such as
Hemilepidotus hemilepidotus and family
Tetraodontidae. However, south of
Alaska on the North American
coast, fish are a negligible or extremely minor part of the sea
otter's diet. Contrary to popular depictions, sea otters
rarely eat starfish, and any kelp that is consumed apparently passes
through the sea otter's system undigested.
The individuals within a particular area often differ in their
foraging methods and prey types, and tend to follow the same patterns
as their mothers. The diet of local populations also changes over
time, as sea otters can significantly deplete populations of highly
preferred prey such as large sea urchins, and prey availability is
also affected by other factors such as fishing by humans. Sea
otters can thoroughly remove abalone from an area except for specimens
in deep rock crevices, however, they never completely wipe out a
prey species from an area. A 2007 Californian study demonstrated,
in areas where food was relatively scarce, a wider variety of prey was
consumed. Surprisingly, though, the diets of individuals were more
specialized in these areas than in areas where food was
As a keystone species
Sea otters control herbivore populations, ensuring sufficient coverage
of kelp in kelp forests
Sea otters are a classic example of a keystone species; their presence
affects the ecosystem more profoundly than their size and numbers
would suggest. They keep the population of certain benthic (sea floor)
herbivores, particularly sea urchins, in check. Sea urchins graze on
the lower stems of kelp, causing the kelp to drift away and die. Loss
of the habitat and nutrients provided by kelp forests leads to
profound cascade effects on the marine ecosystem. North Pacific areas
that do not have sea otters often turn into urchin barrens, with
abundant sea urchins and no kelp forest.
Kelp forests are
extremely productive ecosystems.
Kelp forests sequester (absorb and
capture) CO2 from the atmosphere through photosynthesis. Sea otters
may help mitigate effects of climate change by their cascading trophic
Reintroduction of sea otters to British Columbia has led to a dramatic
improvement in the health of coastal ecosystems, and similar
changes have been observed as sea otter populations recovered in the
Commander Islands and the
Big Sur coast of
California However, some kelp forest ecosystems in California
have also thrived without sea otters, with sea urchin populations
apparently controlled by other factors. 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.
Sea otters effect rocky ecosystems that are dominated by mussel beds
by removing mussels from rocks. This allows space for competing
species and increases species diversity.
Sea otter predation is not common as many predators find the otter's
pungent scent glands distasteful. Leading mammalian predators of this
species include orcas and sea lions, and bald eagles may grab pups
from the surface of the water. Young predators may kill an otter and
not eat it. On land, young sea otters may face attack from bears
and coyotes. In California, great white sharks are their primary
predator but there is no evidence that the sharks eat them.
Urban runoff transporting cat feces into the ocean brings Toxoplasma
gondii, an obligate parasite, which has killed sea otters.
Parasitic infections of
Sarcocystis neurona are also associated with
human activity. According to the U.S. Geological Survey and the
CDC, northern sea otters off Washington have been infected with the
H1N1 flu virus
H1N1 flu virus and "may be a newly identified animal host of influenza
Relationship with humans
Aleut men in
Unalaska in 1896 used waterproof kayak gear and garments
to hunt sea otters.
Sea otters have the thickest fur of any mammal. Their beautiful fur is
a main target for many hunters. Archaeological evidence indicates that
for thousands of years, indigenous peoples have hunted sea otters for
food and fur. Large-scale hunting, part of the Maritime
which would eventually kill approximately one million sea otters,
began in the 18th century when hunters and traders began to arrive
from all over the world to meet foreign demand for otter pelts, which
were one of the world's most valuable types of fur.
In the early 18th century, Russians began to hunt sea otters in the
Kuril Islands and sold them to the Chinese at Kyakhta.
also exploring the far northern Pacific at this time, and sent Vitus
Bering to map the Arctic coast and find routes from Siberia to North
America. In 1741, on his second North Pacific voyage, Bering was
Bering Island in the Commander Islands, where he and
many of his crew died. The surviving crew members, which included
naturalist Georg Steller, discovered sea otters on the beaches of the
island and spent the winter hunting sea otters and gambling with otter
pelts. They returned to Siberia, having killed nearly 1,000 sea
otters, and were able to command high prices for the pelts. Thus
began what is sometimes called the "Great Hunt", which would continue
for another hundred years. The Russians found the sea otter far more
valuable than the sable skins that had driven and paid for most of
their expansion across Siberia. If the sea otter pelts brought back by
Bering's survivors had been sold at
Kyakhta prices they would have
paid for one tenth the cost of Bering's expedition. In 1775 at
Okhotsk, sea otter pelts were worth 50–80 rubles as opposed to 2.5
rubles for sable.
Pelt sales (in thousands) in the London fur market – the drop
beginning in the 1880s reflects dwindling sea otter populations.
Russian fur-hunting expeditions soon depleted the sea otter
populations in the Commander Islands, and by 1745, they began to move
on to the Aleutian Islands. The Russians initially traded with the
Aleuts inhabitants of these islands for otter pelts, but later
enslaved the Aleuts, taking women and children hostage and torturing
and killing Aleut men to force them to hunt. Many Aleuts were either
murdered by the Russians or died from diseases the hunters had
introduced. The Aleut population was reduced, by the Russians'
own estimate, from 20,000 to 2,000. By the 1760s, the Russians
had reached Alaska. In 1799, Emperor Paul I consolidated the rival
fur-hunting companies into the Russian-American Company, granting it
an imperial charter and protection, and a monopoly over trade rights
and territorial acquisition. Under Aleksandr I, the administration of
the merchant-controlled company was transferred to the Imperial Navy,
largely due to the alarming reports by naval officers of native abuse;
in 1818, the indigenous peoples of
Alaska were granted civil rights
equivalent to a townsman status in the Russian Empire.
Other nations joined in the hunt in the south. Along the coasts of
what is now
Mexico and California, Spanish explorers bought sea otter
pelts from Native Americans and sold them in Asia. In 1778,
Captain James Cook
Captain James Cook reached
Vancouver Island and
bought sea otter furs from the
First Nations people. When Cook's
ship later stopped at a Chinese port, the pelts rapidly sold at high
prices, and were soon known as "soft gold". As word spread, people
from all over Europe and North America began to arrive in the Pacific
Northwest to trade for sea otter furs.
Russian hunting expanded to the south, initiated by American ship
captains, who subcontracted Russian supervisors and Aleut hunters
in what are now Washington, Oregon, and California. Between 1803 and
1846, 72 American ships were involved in the otter hunt in California,
harvesting an estimated 40,000 skins and tails, compared to only 13
ships of the Russian-American Company, which reported 5,696 otter
skins taken between 1806 and 1846. In 1812, the Russians founded
an agricultural settlement at what is now
Fort Ross in northern
California, as their southern headquarters. Eventually, sea otter
populations became so depleted, commercial hunting was no longer
viable. It had stopped in the Aleutian Islands, by 1808, as a
conservation measure imposed by the Russian-American Company.
Further restrictions were ordered by the Company in 1834. When
Alaska to the United States in 1867, the
had recovered to over 100,000, but Americans resumed hunting and
quickly extirpated the sea otter again. Prices rose as the
species became rare. During the 1880s, a pelt brought $105 to $165 in
the London market, but by 1903, a pelt could be worth as much as
$1,125. In 1911, Russia, Japan, Great Britain (for Canada) and the
United States signed the Treaty for the Preservation and Protection of
Fur Seals, imposing a moratorium on the harvesting of sea otters.
So few remained, perhaps only 1,000–2,000 individuals in the wild,
that many believed the species would become extinct.
Recovery and conservation
Sea otter conservation
In the wake of the March 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, heavy sheens of
oil covered large areas of Prince William Sound.
During the 20th century, sea otter numbers rebounded in about
two-thirds of their historic range, a recovery considered one of the
greatest successes in marine conservation. However, the IUCN
still lists the sea otter as an endangered species, and describes the
significant threats to sea otters as oil pollution, predation by
orcas, poaching, and conflicts with fisheries – sea otters can
drown if entangled in fishing gear. The hunting of sea otters is no
longer legal except for limited harvests by indigenous peoples in the
Poaching was a serious concern in the Russian Far
East immediately after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991;
however, it has declined significantly with stricter law enforcement
and better economic conditions.
The most significant threat to sea otters is oil spills, to which
they are particularly vulnerable, since they rely on their fur to keep
warm. When their fur is soaked with oil, it loses its ability to
retain air, and the animals can quickly die from hypothermia. The
liver, kidneys, and lungs of sea otters also become damaged after they
inhale oil or ingest it when grooming. The Exxon Valdez oil spill
of 24 March 1989 killed thousands of sea otters in Prince William
Sound, and as of 2006, the lingering oil in the area continues to
affect the population. Describing the public sympathy for sea
otters that developed from media coverage of the event, a U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service spokesperson wrote:
As a playful, photogenic, innocent bystander, the sea otter epitomized
the role of victim ... cute and frolicsome sea otters suddenly in
distress, oiled, frightened, and dying, in a losing battle with the
The small geographic ranges of the sea otter populations in
California, Washington, and British Columbia mean a single major spill
could be catastrophic for that state or province.
Prevention of oil spills and preparation to rescue otters if one
happens is a major focus for conservation efforts. Increasing the size
and range of sea otter populations would also reduce the risk of an
oil spill wiping out a population. However, because of the species'
reputation for depleting shellfish resources, advocates for
commercial, recreational, and subsistence shellfish harvesting have
often opposed allowing the sea otter's range to increase, and there
have even been instances of fishermen and others illegally killing
In the Aleutian Islands, a massive and unexpected disappearance of sea
otters has occurred in recent decades. In the 1980s, the area was home
to an estimated 55,000 to 100,000 sea otters, but the population fell
to around 6,000 animals by 2000. The most widely accepted, but
still controversial, hypothesis is that killer whales have been eating
the otters. The pattern of disappearances is consistent with a rise in
predation, but there has been no direct evidence of orcas preying on
sea otters to any significant extent.
Another area of concern is California, where recovery began to
fluctuate or decline in the late 1990s. Unusually high mortality
rates amongst adult and subadult otters, particularly females, have
been reported. In 2017 the US Geological Survey found a 3% drop in
the sea otter population of the
California coast. This number still
keeps them on track for removal from the endangered species list,
although just barely.
Necropsies of dead sea otters indicate
Toxoplasma gondii and acanthocephalan parasite
infections, are major causes of sea otter mortality in
Toxoplasma gondii parasite, which is often fatal
to sea otters, is carried by wild and domestic cats and may be
transmitted by domestic cat droppings flushed into the ocean via
sewage systems. Although disease has clearly contributed to
the deaths of many of California's sea otters, it is not known why the
California population is apparently more affected by disease than
populations in other areas.
Sea otters off the coast of Washington, within the Olympic Coast
National Marine Sanctuary
Sea otter habitat is preserved through several protected areas in the
Russia and Canada. In marine protected areas, polluting
activities such as dumping of waste and oil drilling are typically
prohibited. An estimated 1,200 sea otters live within the
Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, and more than 500 live within
the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary.
Some of the sea otter's preferred prey species, particularly abalone,
clams, and crabs, are also food sources for humans. In some areas,
massive declines in shellfish harvests have been blamed on the sea
otter, and intense public debate has taken place over how to manage
the competition between sea otters and humans for seafood.
The debate is complicated because sea otters have sometimes been held
responsible for declines of shellfish stocks that were more likely
caused by overfishing, disease, pollution, and seismic
Shellfish declines have also occurred in many parts
of the North American Pacific coast that do not have sea otters, and
conservationists sometimes note the existence of large concentrations
of shellfish on the coast is a recent development resulting from the
fur trade's near-extirpation of the sea otter. Although many
factors affect shellfish stocks, sea otter predation can deplete a
fishery to the point where it is no longer commercially viable.
Scientists agree that sea otters and abalone fisheries cannot exist in
the same area, and the same is likely true for certain other
types of shellfish, as well.
Many facets of the interaction between sea otters and the human
economy are not as immediately felt. Sea otters have been credited
with contributing to the kelp harvesting industry via their well-known
role in controlling sea urchin populations; kelp is used in the
production of diverse food and pharmaceutical products. Although
human divers harvest red sea urchins both for food and to protect the
kelp, sea otters hunt more sea urchin species and are more
consistently effective in controlling these populations. The
health of the kelp forest ecosystem is significant in nurturing
populations of fish, including commercially important fish
species. In some areas, sea otters are popular tourist
attractions, bringing visitors to local hotels, restaurants, and sea
Roles in human cultures
Left: Aleut sea otter amulet in the form of a mother with pup. Above:
Aleut carving of a sea otter hunt on a whalebone spear. Both items are
on display at the Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and
Ethnography in St. Petersburg. Articles depicting sea otters were
considered to have magical properties.
For many maritime indigenous cultures throughout the North Pacific,
especially the Ainu in the Kuril Islands, the
Kamchatka, the Aleut in the Aleutian Islands, the Haida of Haida
Gwaii and a host of tribes on the Pacific coast of North America,
the sea otter has played an important role as a cultural, as well as
material, resource. In these cultures, many of which have strongly
animist traditions full of legends and stories in which many aspects
of the natural world are associated with spirits, the sea otter was
considered particularly kin to humans. The Nuu-chah-nulth, Haida, and
First Nations of coastal British Columbia used the warm and
luxurious pelts as chiefs' regalia.
Sea otter pelts were given in
potlatches to mark coming-of-age ceremonies, weddings, and
funerals. The Aleuts carved sea otter bones for use as ornaments
and in games, and used powdered sea otter baculum as a medicine for
Among the Ainu, the otter is portrayed as an occasional messenger
between humans and the creator. The sea otter is a recurring
figure in Ainu folklore. A major Ainu epic, the Kutune Shirka, tells
the tale of wars and struggles over a golden sea otter. Versions of a
widespread Aleut legend tell of lovers or despairing women who plunge
into the sea and become otters. These links have been associated
with the many human-like behavioral features of the sea otter,
including apparent playfulness, strong mother-pup bonds and tool use,
yielding to ready anthropomorphism. The beginning of commercial
exploitation had a great impact on the human, as well as animal,
populations the Ainu and Aleuts have been displaced or their
numbers are dwindling, while the coastal tribes of North America,
where the otter is in any case greatly depleted, no longer rely as
intimately on sea mammals for survival.
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. The round, expressive face and soft,
furry body of the sea otter are depicted in a wide variety of
souvenirs, postcards, clothing, and stuffed toys.
Aquariums and zoos
Sea otters can do well in captivity, and are featured in over 40
public aquariums and zoos. The
Seattle Aquarium became the first
institution to raise sea otters from conception to adulthood with the
birth of Tichuk in 1979, followed by three more pups in the early
1980s. In 2007, a
YouTube video of two sea otters holding paws
drew 1.5 million viewers in two weeks, and had over 20 million
views as of January 2015[update]. Filmed five years
previously at the Vancouver Aquarium, it was YouTube's most popular
animal video at the time, although it has since been surpassed. The
lighter-colored otter in the video is Nyac, a survivor of the 1989
Exxon Valdez oil spill. Nyac died in September 2008, at the age
of 20. Milo, the darker one, died of lymphoma in January
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Wikimedia Commons has media related to
Wikispecies has information related to Enhydra lutris
Enhydra lutris (Linnaeus, 1758) at the Integrated Taxonomic
Enhydra lutris (Linnaeus, 1758) at the World Register of Marine
De Bestiis Marinis, or, The Beasts of the Sea (1751) (PDF), pp.
68–82, transcribed field notes from 18th-century German zoologist
Georg Wilhelm Steller
Precipice of Survival: The Southern Sea
Otter (Adobe Flash), a
48-minute program on the southern sea otter's history by the United
States Geological Survey
African palm civet
African palm civet (N. binotata)
Marsh mongoose (A. paludinosus)
Bushy-tailed mongoose (B. crassicauda)
Jackson's mongoose (B. jacksoni)
Black-footed mongoose (B. nigripes)
Alexander's kusimanse (C. alexandri)
Angolan kusimanse (C. ansorgei)
Common kusimanse (C. obscurus)
Flat-headed kusimanse (C. platycephalus)
Yellow mongoose (C. penicillata)
Pousargues's mongoose (D. dybowskii)
Angolan slender mongoose
Angolan slender mongoose (G. flavescens)
Black mongoose (G. nigrata)
Somalian slender mongoose
Somalian slender mongoose (G. ochracea)
Cape gray mongoose
Cape gray mongoose (G. pulverulenta)
Slender mongoose (G. sanguinea)
Ethiopian dwarf mongoose
Ethiopian dwarf mongoose (H. hirtula)
Common dwarf mongoose
Common dwarf mongoose (H. parvula)
Short-tailed mongoose (H. brachyurus)
Indian gray mongoose
Indian gray mongoose (H. edwardsii)
Indian brown mongoose
Indian brown mongoose (H. fuscus)
Egyptian mongoose (H. ichneumon)
Small Asian mongoose
Small Asian mongoose (H. javanicus)
Long-nosed mongoose (H. naso)
Collared mongoose (H. semitorquatus)
Ruddy mongoose (H. smithii)
Crab-eating mongoose (H. urva)
Stripe-necked mongoose (H. vitticollis)
White-tailed mongoose (I. albicauda)
Liberian mongoose (L. kuhni)
Gambian mongoose (M. gambianus)
Banded mongoose (M. mungo)
Selous' mongoose (P. selousi)
Meller's mongoose (R. melleri)
Meerkat (S. suricatta)
Spotted hyena (C. crocuta)
Brown hyena (H. brunnea)
Striped hyena (H. hyaena)
Aardwolf (P. cristatus)
Large family listed below
Large family listed below
Small family listed below
Cheetah (A. jubatus)
Caracal (C. caracal)
African golden cat
African golden cat (C. aurata)
Bay cat (C. badia)
Asian golden cat
Asian golden cat (C. temminckii)
European wildcat (F. silvestris)
African wildcat (F. lybica)
Jungle cat (F. chaus)
Black-footed cat (F. nigripes)
Sand cat (F. margarita)
Chinese mountain cat
Chinese mountain cat (F. bieti)
Domestic cat (F. catus)
Ocelot (L. pardalis)
Margay (L. wiedii)
Pampas cat (L. colocola)
Geoffroy's cat (L. geoffroyi)
Kodkod (L. guigna)
Andean mountain cat
Andean mountain cat (L. jacobita)
Oncilla (L. tigrinus)
Southern tigrina (L. guttulus)
Serval (L. serval)
Canadian lynx (L. canadensis)
Eurasian lynx (L. lynx)
Iberian lynx (L. pardinus)
Bobcat (L. rufus)
Pallas's cat (O. manul)
Marbled cat (P. marmorata)
Fishing cat (P. viverrinus)
Leopard cat (P. bengalensis)
Sundaland leopard cat (P. javanensis)
Flat-headed cat (P. planiceps)
Rusty-spotted cat (P. rubiginosus)
Cougar (P. concolor)
Jaguarundi (H. yagouaroundi)
Lion (P. leo)
Jaguar (P. onca)
Leopard (P. pardus)
Tiger (P. tigris)
Snow leopard (P. uncia)
Clouded leopard (N. nebulosa)
Sunda clouded leopard
Sunda clouded leopard (N. diardi)
Viverridae (includes Civets)
Binturong (A. binturong)
Small-toothed palm civet
Small-toothed palm civet (A. trivirgata)
Sulawesi palm civet
Sulawesi palm civet (M. musschenbroekii)
Masked palm civet
Masked palm civet (P. larvata)
Golden wet-zone palm civet (P. aureus)
Asian palm civet
Asian palm civet (P. hermaphroditus)
Jerdon's palm civet (P. jerdoni)
Golden palm civet
Golden palm civet (P. zeylonensis)
Owston's palm civet
Owston's palm civet (C. owstoni)
Otter civet (C. bennettii)
Hose's palm civet
Hose's palm civet (D. hosei)
Banded palm civet
Banded palm civet (H. derbyanus)
Banded linsang (P. linsang)
Spotted linsang (P. pardicolor)
African civet (C. civetta)
Abyssinian genet (G. abyssinica)
Angolan genet (G. angolensis)
Bourlon's genet (G. bourloni)
Crested servaline genet
Crested servaline genet (G. cristata)
Common genet (G. genetta)
Johnston's genet (G. johnstoni)
Rusty-spotted genet (G. maculata)
Pardine genet (G. pardina)
Aquatic genet (G. piscivora)
King genet (G. poensis)
Servaline genet (G. servalina)
Haussa genet (G. thierryi)
Cape genet (G. tigrina)
Giant forest genet
Giant forest genet (G. victoriae)
African linsang (P. richardsonii)
Leighton's linsang (P. leightoni)
Malabar large-spotted civet
Malabar large-spotted civet (V. civettina)
Large-spotted civet (V. megaspila)
Malayan civet (V. tangalunga)
Large Indian civet
Large Indian civet (V. zibetha)
Small Indian civet
Small Indian civet (V. indica)
Fossa (C. ferox)
Eastern falanouc (E. goudotii)
Western falanouc (E. major)
Malagasy civet (F. fossana)
Ring-tailed mongoose (G. elegans)
Broad-striped Malagasy mongoose
Broad-striped Malagasy mongoose (G. fasciata)
Grandidier's mongoose (G. grandidieri)
Narrow-striped mongoose (M. decemlineata)
Brown-tailed mongoose (S. concolor)
Durrell's vontsira (S. durrelli)
Caniformia (cont. below)
Giant panda (A. melanoleuca)
Sun bear (H. malayanus)
Sloth bear (M. ursinus)
Spectacled bear (T. ornatus)
American black bear
American black bear (U. americanus)
Brown bear (U. arctos)
Polar bear (U. maritimus)
Asian black bear
Asian black bear (U. thibetanus)
Molina's hog-nosed skunk
Molina's hog-nosed skunk (C. chinga)
Humboldt's hog-nosed skunk
Humboldt's hog-nosed skunk (C. humboldtii)
American hog-nosed skunk
American hog-nosed skunk (C. leuconotus)
Striped hog-nosed skunk
Striped hog-nosed skunk (C. semistriatus)
Hooded skunk (M. macroura)
Striped skunk (M. mephitis)
Sunda stink badger
Sunda stink badger (M. javanensis)
Palawan stink badger
Palawan stink badger (M. marchei)
Southern spotted skunk
Southern spotted skunk (S. angustifrons)
Western spotted skunk
Western spotted skunk (S. gracilis)
Eastern spotted skunk
Eastern spotted skunk (S. putorius)
Pygmy spotted skunk
Pygmy spotted skunk (S. pygmaea)
Eastern lowland olingo
Eastern lowland olingo (B. alleni)
Northern olingo (B. gabbii)
Western lowland olingo
Western lowland olingo (B. medius)
Olinguito (B. neblina)
Ring-tailed cat (B. astutus)
Cacomistle (B. sumichrasti)
White-nosed coati (N. narica)
South American coati
South American coati (N. nasua)
Western mountain coati (N. olivacea)
Eastern mountain coati (N. meridensis)
Kinkajou (P. flavus)
Crab-eating raccoon (P. cancrivorus)
Raccoon (P. lotor)
Cozumel raccoon (P. pygmaeus)
Red panda (A. fulgens)
Caniformia (cont. above)
(includes fur seals
and sea lions)
South American fur seal
South American fur seal (A. australis)
Australasian fur seal (A. forsteri)
Galápagos fur seal
Galápagos fur seal (A. galapagoensis)
Antarctic fur seal
Antarctic fur seal (A. gazella)
Juan Fernández fur seal
Juan Fernández fur seal (A. philippii)
Brown fur seal
Brown fur seal (A. pusillus)
Guadalupe fur seal
Guadalupe fur seal (A. townsendi)
Subantarctic fur seal
Subantarctic fur seal (A. tropicalis)
Northern fur seal
Northern fur seal (C. ursinus)
Steller sea lion
Steller sea lion (E. jubatus)
Australian sea lion
Australian sea lion (N. cinerea)
South American sea lion
South American sea lion (O. flavescens)
New Zealand sea lion
New Zealand sea lion (P. hookeri)
California sea lion (Z. californianus)
Galápagos sea lion
Galápagos sea lion (Z. wollebaeki)
Walrus (O. rosmarus)
Hooded seal (C. cristata)
Bearded seal (E. barbatus)
Gray seal (H. grypus)
Ribbon seal (H. fasciata)
Leopard seal (H. leptonyx)
Weddell seal (L. weddellii)
Crabeater seal (L. carcinophagus)
Northern elephant seal
Northern elephant seal (M. angustirostris)
Southern elephant seal
Southern elephant seal (M. leonina)
Mediterranean monk seal
Mediterranean monk seal (M. monachus)
Hawaiian monk seal
Hawaiian monk seal (M. schauinslandi)
Ross seal (O. rossi)
Harp seal (P. groenlandicus)
Spotted seal (P. largha)
Harbor seal (P. vitulina)
Caspian seal (P. caspica)
Ringed seal (P. hispida)
Baikal seal (P. sibirica)
Large family listed below
Large family listed below
Canidae (includes dogs)
Short-eared dog (A. microtis)
Side-striped jackal (C. adustus)
African golden wolf
African golden wolf (C. anthus)
Golden jackal (C. aureus)
Coyote (C. latrans)
Gray wolf (C. lupus)
Black-backed jackal (C. mesomelas)
Red wolf (C. rufus)
Ethiopian wolf (C. simensis)
Crab-eating fox (C. thous)
Maned wolf (C. brachyurus)
Dhole (C. alpinus)
Culpeo (L. culpaeus)
Darwin's fox (L. fulvipes)
South American gray fox
South American gray fox (L. griseus)
Pampas fox (L. gymnocercus)
Sechuran fox (L. sechurae)
Hoary fox (L. vetulus)
African wild dog
African wild dog (L. pictus)
Raccoon dog (N. procyonoides)
Bat-eared fox (O. megalotis)
Bush dog (S. venaticus)
Gray fox (U. cinereoargenteus)
Island fox (U. littoralis)
Bengal fox (V. bengalensis)
Blanford's fox (V. cana)
Cape fox (V. chama)
Corsac fox (V. corsac)
Tibetan sand fox
Tibetan sand fox (V. ferrilata)
Arctic fox (V. lagopus)
Kit fox (V. macrotis)
Pale fox (V. pallida)
Rüppell's fox (V. rueppelli)
Swift fox (V. velox)
Red fox (V. vulpes)
Fennec fox (V. zerda)
African clawless otter
African clawless otter (A. capensis)
Oriental small-clawed otter
Oriental small-clawed otter (A. cinerea)
Sea otter (E. lutris)
Spotted-necked otter (H. maculicollis)
North American river otter
North American river otter (L. canadensis)
Marine otter (L. felina)
Neotropical otter (L. longicaudis)
Southern river otter
Southern river otter (L. provocax)
Eurasian otter (L. lutra)
Hairy-nosed otter (L. sumatrana)
Smooth-coated otter (L. perspicillata)
Giant otter (P. brasiliensis)
Hog badger (A. collaris)
Tayra (E. barbara)
Lesser grison (G. cuja)
Greater grison (G. vittata)
Wolverine (G. gulo)
Saharan striped polecat
Saharan striped polecat (I. libyca)
Striped polecat (I. striatus)
Patagonian weasel (L. patagonicus)
American marten (M. americana)
Yellow-throated marten (M. flavigula)
Beech marten (M. foina)
Nilgiri marten (M. gwatkinsii)
European pine marten
European pine marten (M. martes)
Japanese marten (M. melampus)
Sable (M. zibellina)
Fisher (P. pennanti)
Japanese badger (M. anakuma)
Asian badger (M. leucurus)
European badger (M. meles)
Honey badger (M. capensis)
Bornean ferret-badger (M. everetti)
Chinese ferret-badger (M. moschata)
Javan ferret-badger (M. orientalis)
Burmese ferret-badger (M. personata)
(Weasels and Ferrets)
Amazon weasel (M. africana)
Mountain weasel (M. altaica)
Stoat (M. erminea)
Steppe polecat (M. eversmannii)
Colombian weasel (M. felipei)
Long-tailed weasel (M. frenata)
Japanese weasel (M. itatsi)
Yellow-bellied weasel (M. kathiah)
European mink (M. lutreola)
Indonesian mountain weasel
Indonesian mountain weasel (M. lutreolina)
Black-footed ferret (M. nigripes)
Least weasel (M. nivalis)
Malayan weasel (M. nudipes)
European polecat (M. putorius)
Siberian weasel (M. sibirica)
Back-striped weasel (M. strigidorsa)
Egyptian weasel (M. subpalmata)
American mink (N. vison)
African striped weasel
African striped weasel (P. albinucha)
American badger (T. taxus)
Marbled polecat (V. peregusna)
Marine life portal