Where Do Sea Otters Live?

As you can see in their name, sea otters reside in the sea. But, you may be wondering where exactly their habitats are. So, where do sea otters live?

Sea otters are marine mammals that thrive in oceanic environments and near coasts. They often stay in shallow waters. They prefer cold waters with temperatures between 35°F and 60°F. When they need to sleep, they go ashore to rest.

You may be interested in why they live in these habitats. If you are, keep reading as we will explore critical information you need to know about sea otter habitats.

We’ll go over specific sea otter locations and why they live here. This guide will provide you with all the facts you need to know about sea otter homes.

Let’s dive in.

Where do sea otters live

Where do sea otters live?

Sea otters live in specific areas as they have many preferences for their habitats. They like cold, shallow waters near coasts.

Sea otters also live in rocky areas, which provides them with tools to hunt prey. They use rocks to open hard-shelled food for eating.

They are often found on North America and Asia’s Pacific coast. It is rare to find them more than 0.6 miles from shore.

Although they live close to the shore, they spend most of their lives in the water. They stay in the water most of the day and come up to the shore when they need to sleep or rest.

North American sea otters can be split into the Alaska otter and the California otter. They are the same species but have different behaviors that revolve around their habitats.

Alaska otters come to the shore more often than California otters. This could be because Alaska’s waters are colder than California’s.

Meanwhile, in California, California otters like to stay in kelp beds. This is because it provides them with food resources and protection from predators.

As sea otters are pickier about their habitats, let’s go into more detail on why they pick their habitats. We will also talk about specific areas they live in.

1. Diet

Sea otters require lots of food for survival and live offshore near abundant food sources. They don’t like water that is 130 feet deep, as it would require a lot of energy to dive down and catch food.

Sea otters eat a varied diet which includes shellfish, fish, octopus, and crabs. These types of prey are preferred and tend to live in areas nearby them.

They often live near rocky reefs that provide them with tools to hunt prey. They use rocks to crack up the shells of hard-shelled prey.

Soft bottom waters are also a popular choice among sea otter populations. They forage through kelp forests in search of slow-moving prey.

Often, they forage for sea urchins and other species living in the kelp. Sea otters play a crucial role in keeping the population of sea urchins down and helping other sea life communities thrive.

When the sea urchins aren’t being eaten, they will create “urchin barrens” that prevent other species from flourishing in the kelp forests. Sea otters prevent this and control the number of sea urchins.

Another habitat sea otters like to stay in is estuaries, where they keep the eelgrass healthy. They do this by eating the crabs that prey on sea slugs, which eat the algae that prevent the eelgrass that fish need for food and shelter.

2. Protection

The habitats of sea otters protect them from predators and harsh weather conditions. They have many areas they rely on to keep safe from these threats.

During storms and winter, they take shelter in bays and inlets, protecting them from windy waters and extreme rainfall. These areas also supply warmth which they can retain with their thick coats.

Large apex predators like orcas and great white sharks feast on these furry creatures. To survive, they have methods of escaping and hiding from danger.

Kelp forests protect sea otters from predators like bears, coyotes, and eagles that can’t swim in deep cold waters. Another strategy they use to defend themselves is going ashore, so predators like orcas can’t reach them.

Sea otters can swim up to 6mph underwater, allowing them to escape predators and take shelter. They can also hold their breath for 8 minutes underwater, an adaption that helps them hide away from predators.

3. Temperature

35°F to 60°F is the water temperature that sea otters prefer to reside in. They have many adaptions that allow them to thrive in colder waters but not so much in warmer water.

They have the thickest fur in the animal kingdom, which provides them with heat. This helps them stay in cold waters for an extended time.

Instead of having fat like sea lions and seals, their fur keeps them warm during brutal winters. The position of their bodies also helps them preserve heat in cold waters.

When the water is too cold, they will float on their backs with their feet out of the water. They will also spread out or fold their feet while holding them up.

A sea otter’s buoyancy can increase when they are in freezing water. They manage this by controlling their lungs’ capacity, allowing them to float for more extended periods.

Sea otters enjoy these waters as there isn’t much competition regarding prey. Not many marine animals can survive in these cold conditions and don’t have adaptions suitable for survival in these waters like sea otters.

What countries do sea otters live in?

Sea otter populations range in Russia, Canada, Japan, and the US. Before they were almost driven to extinction, they inhabited more areas along the Pacific coastline down to Baja California.

Below is a table displaying sea otter habitats and distribution.

AlaskaSoutheast coastal waters
CaliforniaCentral coast from San Mateo to Santa Barbara
CanadaWest coast of Vancouver Island and central coast of British Columbia
JapanThe coast of Erimo, Hokkaido
Russia Kamchatka Peninsula, Commander Islands, Kuril Islands

Do sea otters migrate?

Sea otters only migrate to local areas and stay in their habitats for most of their lives. They will only migrate to areas where food and prey are abundant.

They don’t travel far and stay in their habitats for most of their lives. Migration is unnecessary for sea otters and only wastes the energy and heat needed to survive the cold weather.

Southern sea otter males may migrate south of their habitat during pupping season in late winter to early spring. Pups that have just been weaned will also be found migrating further from their mother due to aggressive males defending their territory.

Where do sea otters sleep?

Instead of going to the shore, sea otters sleep in the sea. Since they live in calm waters, they are unlikely to drift away from their habitats.

In case they do, sea otters like to sleep in kelp beds for extra protection. Most of the time, they sleep on their backs on the water’s surface.

Sea otters in rafts will sleep up to 11 hours a day, but those who are alone will stay awake for longer collecting food. Sea otters do not hibernate as their coats keep them warm in winter.

You may have seen sea otters that hold hands, which is very adorable. A mother and her pup will do this when sleeping to ensure they do not drift apart.

In conclusion

Sea otters live in cold, shallow waters near coasts. They like specific environments that are affected by factors like temperature, their diet, and protection

Sea otters can be found in countries such as the US, Canada, Russia, and Japan. They live down the Pacific coastline.

The migration does not happen with sea otters, and they prefer to stay in their habitats for most of their lives. They only migrate to local areas in search of food sources.

Sea otters sleep in the sea either on the water’s surface or in kelp beds. Mothers and their pups will hold hands, so they don’t drift apart.

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