Interesting Facts About the Marine Otter
The marine otter is an endangered species. This means that this particular species of otter is facing a very high risk of extinction. The marine otter is part of the family Mustelidae, which is basically a marine sector of the weasel family. While many other species of otter will spend some time on land as well as in the water, the marine otter is almost exclusively aquatic and will rarely even visit freshwater areas.
The marine otter hails from South America, particularly near Argentina, Chile, and Peru. Some occasional sightings of this species are made near the Faulkland Islands, however they typically stick more closely to the South American coast. In this area, they seek out the shelter of rocky areas such as shorelines, caves, and rocky crevices within the water. They also prefer areas that are lush with dense vegetation such as shrubs and seaweed which make an excellent source of shelter and camouflage for them to move about undetected. When the waters turn choppy and a little rough, the marine otter is in its element, which is quite different from other otters which prefer peaceful waters. When the odd marine otter does decide to explore on land, they typically will stay within one hundred feet away from the water. It is likely that this species’ strict environmental preference is the reason why they have not spread out into other areas of the world.
This species of otter rarely grows to be longer than three feet and typically weighs between ten and thirty pounds. This ratio is similar to a small breed of dog! The marine otter’s fur is dark brown in color and very coarse in comparison to the average sea otter. This may be a protective element of their physical makeup to protect them from the rocks and rough waters of their home. This species’ teeth are designed to slice into their food, which is often made up of mollusks, crabs, shrimp, and fish.
Marine otters like their privacy and are often only spotted alone or in small groups of two or three. They are most active during the day time and can sometimes be spotted sun bathing or eating on rocks. Marine otters carry their babies, or “pups”, anywhere between two to three months and usually have litters of at least two pups or as many as five. They are most prolific between the months of January to March and will tend to their pups’ needs for about ten months after birth. During this time the mother and father otters will acquire food for their pups and teach them how to hunt their own food. The mother may also carry her children on her belly as she swims on her back, which can be a treat to see if one is lucky enough to be nearby!
It is estimated that there are about one thousand marine otters left. While this may not seem like a very small number, that is the worldwide count and the number are continuing to dwindle. This is mostly due to the fact that people continue to hunt this species for their fur and sometimes for food. While there are laws to protect the otters from hunters, the problem is that the laws are hardly ever enforced and therefore the hunting continues. Hunting isn’t the only contributor to the low numbers of this species, however. These otters are finding it much more difficult to find a suitable living environment. This is largely an effect of pollution in the shores near the marine otter’s home as well as the increased harvesting of the seaweed that many marine otters use as protection. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look very good for this species as long as hunting laws continue to go unenforced and pollution remains an issue.