Cute Sea Otter Behavior Decoded
Hi, my name's Kristi. I'm a senior marine mammal trainer, who works primarily with the sea otters.
Why do sea otters hold hands?
Otters hold paws, and it's called rafting. They do this to stay in groups; typically they do it when they're sleeping. If you think about it, safety in numbers is always a good thing, and so they don't want to float away and potentially get preyed upon. Out in the wild, if it means holding paws with a stranger...you hold paws with a stranger.
Why do sea otters bang things?
So, the banging is a natural behavior for otters. They eat a lot of shellfish, a lot of invertebrates. And to crack open that shellfish, they'll bang that food on a rock, or they'll find a rock to bang against the shellfish to get to the food inside. Sea otters are one of the few marine mammals to use tools. Otters are also seen to—if they find a particular rock that works really well for them, they can actually store it in a loose fold of skin in their armpit area, referred to as a pocket, to hold on to it for later use.
Why do sea otters rub their faces?
So, this behavior. Rubbing the face is a grooming behavior. It's a really important behavior for otters. They have the densest fur in all the animal kingdom and rely on that fur to keep themselves warm in the cold water. They don't have any blubber or fat, so keeping that fur really clean maintain its waterproofing qualities. A healthy sea otter's fur never allows their skin to be wet, so grooming that fur and keeping it really clean is really important. If you were to try and part the fur down to the skin, you'd never be able to see the skin.
Why does a sea otter pup lie on its mom?
When pups are born, they have a lanugo coat, which actually doesn't allow them to dive, so they can just float in the water. And they aren't very good swimmers when they're first born, either, so it's mom's responsibility to take care of that pup and keep it with her. And that's the easiest way for mom to do it—is to keep it on her chest. Now if the mom needs to go off and hunt for food, you may see a pup actually wrapped in kelp. They'll use kelp, kind of like a seat belt, to keep the pup in place so that mom can go and forage, and when she comes back to the surface, the pup is in the same place.
Why do sea otters wrestle?
Young pups, especially, are gonna be socializing and interacting with other young pups. We're very fortunate here at the aquarium, where we do have four animals under the age of two, and so they're—have a lot of energy and very playful with each other and most of the time, spend most of their day playing and wrestling with each other. You would see this out in the wild as well with young pups interacting with each other, learning social cues and learning how to be an otter out in the wild.