EFA: Etsy For Animals Etsy For Animals: Teachable Moment: Kindness to Otters

Etsy for Animals (EFA) aka Artists Helping Animals,

is a team of independent artists, craftspeople,

vintage sellers and craft suppliers on Etsy.com

who are dedicated to providing charitable relief to animals

by donating a portion of the profits from their shops

to an animal charity of their choosing,

and/or to EFA's featured Charity of the Month.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Teachable Moment: Kindness to Otters

Teachable Moment: Kindness to Otters
by Emily from YarnMiracle

The innocent appeal of Otters - their shiny black eyes, cute little ears and whiskered chins - captivates children and adults alike. There are many children's books with sea or river otters in starring roles. But these intelligent creatures are more than just an pretty (furry?) face. To celebrate Sea Otter Awareness Week with Defenders of Wildlife, here are just a few of the interesting things about Sea Otters. Share them with the kids in your life the next time you bump into an otter.

Sea Otters are well-equipped to spend most of their lives in the water. Their nostrils and ears close up tightly to keep water out when swimming and diving, webbed feet give them a powerful edge as swimmers and their water repellent fur coats are important to their survival for several reasons. Otters take special care of their dense fur with constant grooming from claws and teeth, washing to remove any food crumbs and meticulous removal of sand or bits of plants to keep their fur smooth and perfect. 

Unlike other marine mammals who have a thick layer of fat for insulation, an otter's coat is his only defense against freezing water. Any knots or loose fur might create a hole that lets in the cold. In addition, all the scratching and blowing creates air pockets that help keep the otters in their favorite position: floating on their backs. In that way, their fur is also like a life jacket. Otters are often seen floating around on their backs: sleeping, hanging out or cracking open shellfish by smashing them repeatedly on a rock held to their chests.

Sea otters spend a lot of time in kelp forests, many of their favorite foods are creatures that graze on kelp. By keeping these animal populations under control, the otters keep the kelp forests healthy and the local ecosystem diverse and complex (a good thing). Otters use the plants long fronds to anchor themselves while sleeping to keep from floating away in ocean currents. The kelp also keeps them camouflaged from larger animals who think otters are delicious: stellar sea lions, coyotes, bears and eagles.

As a baby, a sea otter pup spends his time cuddled on his floating mothers' chest or tied up in a kelp bed so he won't float away while she is off looking for food. His fluffy baby fur is so full of air from all of Mom's grooming that he floats like a cork. Otter Moms take very good care of their babies until they can take care of themselves at around one year of age. As her baby grows, Mom will teach him to swim and dive to find food. As an adult, an otter can hold can breath for up to five minutes - it's a long way down to the ocean floor to find dinner.

Many Sea Otter populations (including the population along the coast of southern California) are considered threatened. Oil spills, habitat loss and degradation, food limitation, disease, fishing gear entrapment and conflict with shellfish fisheries (many of the otters favorite foods are also enjoyed by people) are all hardships for otters. Without all of the hazards, male sea otters generally live about 10-15 years and females for 15-20. The sea otter is considered an "umbrella" species. If otters are protected in an area and allowed to do well, other species also benefit. 

There are many ways to help Otter financially, but education is one of the greatest weapons against species endangerment. The more we know about sea otters and the part they play in maintaining balance in coastal waters, the harder it is to ignore when they are threatened.

One More Click
Easier Origami Otter - with video!
(no otter list is complete without this YouTube link).

Suggested Reading
A Lot of Otters - Barbara Helen Berger
Uttery Otterly Day - Mary Casanova
Oscar Otter - Nathanial Benchley
(There are tons, but I'll stop here.)


  1. I love Sea Otters are we're lucky enough to have seen them in CA, they are beautiful, adorable creatures deserving our love and protection. This is a great article, and love the EFA Otter creations too!

  2. I think otters are my all time favorite. I wish I lived near a lake with a bunch of them I'd never get tired of watching them.

  3. Thank you very much for this. I appreciate all the information about Sea Otters. I will be sharing this post on Facebook and Twitter a lot this week.


  4. Such a fabulous feature and so many links to explore too ! THANKS so very much... luv them sea otters !

  5. I love otters too! Fantastic post and beautiful artwork - enjoyed this very much!

  6. I love otters....so cute! A great informative read!

  7. Wonderful article! Very informative!
    I love that mamma otter will wrap her baby in sea kelp while hunting! So cute and smart!!!
    Thanks so much for including my card too!


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