California Sea Otters

California sea otters are charismatic mammals found exclusively along the coast of central California. Lacking an insulating blubber layer, these otters are covered in dense, luxurious fur that keeps them warm. In fact, they have the densest fur of any mammal with up to 1,000,000 hairs per square inch!

These small mammals seem to eat more than some of our larger ones. Because they have an extremely fast metabolism, California sea otters eat about 25 to 30% of their body weight daily. For an otter weighing 100 pounds, this would be 25 pounds of food every day! They eat more than 50 types of animals including abalone, crabs, clams, and mussels. They use a rock as a tool to pry prey off rocks and break open shells. Sea otters are one of the few types of animals that use tools.

Observe our California sea otters at Otter Outlook in Rocky Point Preserve. Learn more about our otters and learn how we care for them during our daily Tube Time feeding presentation.

Q: Are California sea otters endangered?
SW: Yes. The most recent population estimate was only 2,800 animals.

Q: What threats are sea otters facing?
SW: In the 18th and 19th centuries, sea otters were nearly hunted to extinction by fur traders. Today, they are threatened by oil spills, entanglement in fishing nets, and disease. The parasite Toxoplasma gondii, which cats shed in their feces, washes into coastal waters and enters the food chain through filter feeding animals such as clams and mussels. Sea otters become infected when they eat these clams and mussels. You can protect sea otters by disposing of used kitty litter in plastic bags, rather than flushing it.

Q: Where did SeaWorld’s otters come from?
SW: The California sea otters at SeaWorld San Diego originally stranded and were rescued as part of the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Sea Otter Research and Conservation program. Not having the necessary skills and ability to survive on their own, these otters now make their home at SeaWorld.