The California Sea Otter is one of the many wildlife species that has made their home in San Simeon and can be seen year-round. These mammals live in kelp forests and estuary habitats part of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Despite their relatively small size, being the second smallest marine mammal, the sea otters can dive up to 330 feet to forage for food in the ocean.
Their diet primarily consists of crabs, snails, urchins, clams, abalone and mussels – all day long! In fact, these hungry animals consume up to 25% of their body weight daily. While the sea otters may dive down to find food, they always return to the surface to enjoy their meal. And they would not be found without a snack – sea otters often carry food in the pockets of their fur and the loose skin beneath each forearm.
The sea otter is an important part of their habitat — It’s a keystone species, meaning the health of sea otters is a good indication of the health of other species and ecosystems nearby. Sea otters eat sea urchins, which keeps the populations in check. If the urchin population is left without a predator, they will take over an area making it uninhabitable for other species.
Most marine mammals have a thick layer of blubber to keep them warm in the cold ocean temperatures, but sea otters rely heavily on their fur. Their fur is the densest in the world with more than a million hairs per square inch. For reference, cats only have around 600,000 hairs on their entire body! To keep their dense coat waterproof and in good condition, the sea otter dedicates a good portion of their day to cleaning and grooming. This allows natural oils to seal the coat dry.
The California Sea Otter is the smallest mammal off of our shores. Female adults range from about 4 feet in height and 50 pounds, while male adults range from about 4 feet in height and 70 pounds. Large groups of otters can be seen at the Piedras Blancas Light Station on any given day as well as along the entire coast of San Simeon.
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