(41 kilograms).The smallest otter is the Asian small-clawed otter, which grows up to 2.9 fee… These fishermen depend upon a good daily catch for a living. A sea otter’s tool of choice: typically a rock that … This distinction goes to the sea otter. Otters today are faced with habitat loss and food scarcity, apart from killing due to their thick coat. The sea otter was once abundant in a wide arc across the North Pacific ocean, from northern Japan to Alaska to Mexico. By 1740, when the Bering expedition explored the coasts of the Aleutian and Commander Islands, there were between 100,000 and 300,000 sea otters on the Pacific coast. Sea otters often float at the water's surface, lying on their backs in a posture of serene repose. Others did so out of a conscious effort to protect these animals from extinction. 2020 National Geographic Partners, LLC. Mothers nurture their young while floating on their backs. They are now primarily threatened by oil spills, conflict with the fishing industry and diseases that are intensified by pollution. During the nineteenth century, sea otters were hunted almost to the point of extinction. Sea otters have historically been hunted for their pelts. Sea otters have been using tools for generations—and now archaeologists are probing their secrets. Sea otters were hunted to local extinction along the Pacific Northwest coast as part of the fur trade in the 18th and 19th centuries. For that reason, they were hunted extensively and their rich pelt was used in fur trade. However, the sea otter’s thick, rich pelt also made it a major target for hunters who, by the 1900s, had brought the animal close to extinction. Though it is the largest, it isn’t the heaviest. Sea otters have thick underfur that traps air to form an insulating layer against the chilly waters (they have no insulating fat). Although sea otters have the ability to walk on land, they are capable of living exclusively in the ocean. They could also be killed in the water instead of just on land. Since they are small, they also don’t need to worry about carrying large prey back to get their trophy recognized. Sea otters are the only otters to give birth in the water. That isn’t limited to only their society though. Their fur which is one of the thickest in … Sea otters were hunted for their fur to the point of near extinction. Remnant populations survived off central California and western Alaska. The latter threat to these animals dates back to the 19th century when they were hunted to near extinction for their fur. Then groups of hunters were sent out in canoes to find and kill Otters. As top predators, sea otters are critical to maintaining the balance of nearshore ecosystems, such as kelp forests, embayments and estuaries. It was killed by fishermen who thought the otters were eating too many of the fish they wanted to catch. You will be protecting Otters lives and those individuals may have to do jail time or pay a huge fine for their illegal activities. These otters were hunted or traded well over a thousand years ago, long before European contact and the maritime fur trade, and the results of the analysis show it. If you find that someone is engaging in such behaviors report it to the authorities immediately. Otters will place the rock on their chests, and repeatedly smash the shellfish against it until it breaks open to reveal the tasty meal inside. They could also be killed in the water instead of just on land. Otters Conservation Status. Sea otters were hunted since the mid-1700s for their fur, almost to extinction. The early hunting methods though included darts and arrows. This would go on for days until the leader of the expedition felt that they had enough cargo to return home. These aquatic otters do more than sleep while floating on their backs. Sea otters once numbered in the hundreds of thousands, but fur traders hunted them in large numbers and, consequently, reduced their population size. As a result the numbers of them are quite low. “Maybe 50 were left in all of California by the early 1800’s,” they noted in their blog post. Without the sea otter, … Just a few hundred years ago, thousands of sea otters peppered the coast of California, dwarfing the current population of less than 3000 animals. They also are aware that Otters consume large amounts of them every single day. Sea otters were successfully reintroduced to Washington, British … Once commercial harvest ceased, sea otter numbers rebounded and they re-colonized much of their former range. However, people continue to hunt them for sport. Then they too would be captured. Early in the 20th century only 1,000 to 2,000 animals remained. In China it was standard for the royalty to wear robes made from them. Sea otters are meticulously clean. Even the young pups would be trapped and killed for their fur. Watch sea otters crack open mussels on stone anvils. They also dine on such aquatic creatures as sea urchins, crabs, squid, octopuses, and fish. While it is believed that it likely occurred well before that it can’t be proven with any real information out there. Later on guns were used to hunt Otters but many still preferred trapping. There has long been a history of Otter pelts being displayed around the world. Sea otters today are considered a species that is endangered. The main reason that these Otters were hunted though was for their fur. It grows from 4.9 to 5.9 feet (1.5 to 1.8 meters) long. They are often seen with a clam or mussel and a rock that has been deftly snared from the ocean floor. These traits are what have made the otter such an endangered species. There has been recent archeological evidence which suggests that for thousands of years, indigenous peoples have hunted the otter for food and fur. A sea otter in Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge USFWS/Lisa hupp. Commercial hunters aren’t found of Otters either. Males weigh up to 90 lbs. The sea otter spends most of its time in the water but, in some locations, comes ashore to sleep or rest. Many of the different species of Otters have been heavily hunted in the past. Sea otters share common ancestry with a family called Mustelidae, a diverse group of organisms that include 12 other otter species and small terrestrial animals such as weasels and badgers. Sea otters were hunted to near-extinction by the 1920s, leaving surviving populations small and vulnerable. However, as the cost of them continued to increase more people stopped buying them. This aquatic member of the weasel family is found along the coasts of the Pacific Ocean in North America and Asia. Sea Otters Hunted To Near Extinction. Like other mustelids, sea otters are small animals that have short legs, short round ears, and thick fur. According to Defenders of Wildlife, a wildlife charity organization, sea otters are endangered because they were nearly hunted to extinction in the 1700s and 1800s. There are stories though in many cultures that date back before then that continues to circulate among the generations. Bering and his crew suffered a shipwreck on the Commander Islands in the Russian far east. Why are Sea Otters Hunted? Later on traps were set on land to capture them based upon evidence of where the Otter populations were living. They hold infants on their chests to nurse them, and quickly teach them to swim and hunt. Even some types of mittens for children have been made from the fur of Otters. Sea otter hunters (1896), Source: Wikimedia Commons. Sea otters have inhabited the northern coasts of the Pacific Ocean since the Pleistocene, about 1 to 3 million years ago. The tails of Otters were often made into items for men to wear. Aleuts hunt sea otters in the kelp beds around the island by paddling skin canoes to the otters' habitat. Many of the pelts were sold to the Chinese who used them to make belts, capes, and clothes for the wealthy class of people. The otter is one of the few mammals that use tools. Large-scale hunting, part of the Maritime Fur Trade, which would eventually kill approximately one million sea otters, began in the 18th century when hunters and traders began to arrive from all over the world to meet foreign demand for otter pelts, which were one of the world's most valuable types of fur. This coat is invaluable to otters, but it has worth to some humans as well. Unalashka Natives with their Canoes, 1827. Sea otters were hunted to local extinction off the Pacific Northwest coast as part of the fur trade in the 18th and 19th centuries. They included hats and belts. Then groups of hunters were sent out in canoes to find and kill Otters. They sleep this way, often gathered in groups. The desire of people all over the world to have items made from Otter significantly increased the hunting efforts for them. People actively hunted for the sea otters’ wool in the 18th century, which meant destructive influence for the species, and sea otters began to occur less frequently and less frequently in the natural habitat. When the number of sea otters became very low, it was noticed that the ecosystem of kelp bed "forests" was also disappearing. (Joy) After eating, they wash themselves in the ocean, cleaning their coat with their teeth and paws. A host of human impacts are to blame for keeping otters near the edge of extinction today—loss of habitat, competition for food, diseases carried by our pets and oils spills, to name just … The sea otter were hunted almost to extinction. This is why conservation efforts are in place to help them continue to survive. It was killed by fishermen who thought the otters were eating too many of the fish they wanted to catch. Large hunting efforts were emerging that involved a large ship in the water. It was discovered that the sea otters were predators of sea urchins, which were, in turn, predators of the kelp. They have the densest fur in the animal kingdom. Otters sometimes float in forests of kelp, or giant seaweed, in which they entangle themselves to provide anchorage in the swirling sea. They hunt them in order to reduce the competition for the fish that they want to capture. Today the hunting of Otters is severely limited by law. This is one animal that they find to be out there for them to access. They come in many sizes. According to the aquarium, these adorable creatures were hunted to “near extinction” not too long ago. When they had their canoe full they would return to the large ship to unload them. © 1996-2015 National Geographic Society, © 2015- https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/s/sea-otter.html. The introduction of silk is another reason why the desire for items made from Otter decreased. Sea otters were hunted nearly to extinction in the late 1700s and 1800s through commercial harvest for their luxurious furs. Historically there were about 16,000 sea otters along the entire California coast. They numbered from 150,000 to 300,000 worldwide before the fur trade. The fact that most people are no longer interested in wearing Otter clothing has helped to keep those laws active. In fact, they were often captured first so that their distress calls would bring adult Otters to find out what was going on. Those that were financially high in status also wore them. The concept of Otter hunting is one that dates back to the 1700’s according to documented information. There are 13 species of otters, in seven genera, according to Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS). Sea otters are a keystone species, meaning their role in their environment has a greater effect than other species. By 1911, hunting for the animal's luxurious fur had reduced the sea otter population to fewer than 2000 individuals in the most remote and inaccessible parts of its range. Designed by Elegant Themes | Powered by WordPress. F. H. von Kittlitz in Litke's Atlas to Voyage. Since there isn’t much of a market for it people can’t make money like they used to by killing them. In many locations including the United States capes, belts, and sashes made from the fur of Otters have been very popular. In every square inch of its fur, there are around 850,000 to one million hairs. The desire of people all over the world to have items made from Otter significantly increased the hunting efforts for them. They have good reason to take care of their coats—it helps them to remain waterproof and insulated against the cold. It was the best way to preserve the pelts from these animals. The hunters use spears to kill the otters and then skin them for their beautiful fur pelts.. Karana is angry that the Aleuts are killing so many otters. Sea otters have thick underfur that traps air to form an insulating layer against the chilly waters (they have no insulating fat). Sea otters have webbed feet, water-repellent fur to keep them dry and warm, and nostrils and ears that close in the water. More than 40 percent of California sea otter deaths are caused by parasitic, fungal, or bacterial infections, and studies have linked these In the 1700-1800s on the coast of California, the sea otter was hunted for its gorgeous pelt. Today, sea otters are protected by law. Since Otter hunting is illegal in many areas you need to familiarize yourself with the laws. Sea otters were hunted to local extinction off the Pacific Northwest coast as part of the fur trade in the 18th and 19th centuries. They discovered the sea otters that they hunted for survival were extremely valuable and took 900 sea otter pelts to Russia. However, with the use of guns more Otters could be killed in less time. All rights reserved. A few hours after the hunt, we were in the trailer eating sea otter backstrap, pan fried and lightly seasoned. Large hunting efforts were emerging that involved a large ship in the water. They don’t have to go hunting through the forest to find it. 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