Sea Otter

Kelp Forest Ambassador

Sea otters live amidst kelp forests of the California coasts. The highest kelp fronds float just beneath the waves as the highest branches and leaves of trees in a land forest reach to the sky. Amidst these kelp fronds, sea otters dive to look for food such as sea urchins and abalone.

Sea otters protect themselves from the cold by constantly grooming to secure a layer of bubbles in their fur. Oil spills are devasating to otters because the oil coats their fur stopping them from creating an all important warm bubble layer.Sometimes the most fragile of things, bubbles, are key to survival.

When sea otters sleep, they wrap themselves in a blanket of kelp to anchor themselves in one place. Mother otters secure their ocean-cradled pups in this way while they dive for food.

The Quest

The southern sea otter ranges in California from Ano Nuevo, north of Santa Cruz, to Purisima Point, north of Pt Conception. A small colony also lives near San Nicolas Island off Santa Barbara.

You can see otters along Monterey Bay. Stop at the Friends of the Sea Otter store and education center on Cannery Row in Monterey for a map. Visit this website at Friends of the Sea Otter.


To me the sea otter is a symbol of the California coast and a reminder of the inspiration of one of my great role models, Margaret Wentworth Owings who helped found the Friends of the Sea Otter organization. Click here to go to their website. Click here to read reviews of Owings's collection of essays called Voice from the Sea : And Other Reflections on Wildlife & Wilderness.

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