We were absolutely delighted to spot a sea otter when we traveled by boat on Resurrection Bay from Seward to Fox Island. Our guide told us to start looking for these comical creatures as soon as we left the dock. Sure enough, we quickly found one to make us giggle. Sea otters can look small in the water, but they measure between four and five feet in length, not including their 10-inch tail. Because of their cute faces, they have been nicknamed, “old man of the sea”.
Sea otters habitually float on their backs to rest and feed. At times, they can be seen bending slightly backwards, shading their eyes with a paw, and scanning the water surface for a killer whale, the only sea mammal that preys on them. If an otter sees a whale fin, it flops down on its belly and start swimming to the nearest kelp bed. It uses its powerful, flipper-like hind feet to move through the water at a speed of about 10 miles per hour. Kelp beds are not only used for sanctuary, but also for resting, sleeping, and whelping quarters.
A sea otter primarily dines on sea urchins and mussels. It will eat several times a day, diving down for its food in shallow waters. It is quite entertaining to watch an otter devour a meal while floating on its back, using its chest as a table. To eat mussels, it uses a rock to crack them open. After finishing its meal, an otter evens lick its paws!
The males take no responsibility for raising their young, but the mothers more than make up for it. A mother otter not only protects her pup from danger, but she also shows affection by fondling and kissing. She measures out discipline too, spanking a pup during diving lessons until the pup has mastered the technique.