Sea Otter Awareness Week September 21-27

September 10, 2008

Activities will inform visitors about the loveable marine mammals

The Oregon Coast Aquarium will observe Sea Otter Awareness Week September 21-27, 2008, a week-long event to educate the public about the integral role that sea otters play in the marine ecosystem. The event will include talks by mammalogists, sea otter crafts and an abundance of literature about sea otters’ natural history and amazing adaptations. For more information about national observances, visit http://www.defenders.org/seaotter/awareness.

The last sea otter in Oregon was trapped near Newport in 1906. Sea otters once ranged in number along the coasts of the North Pacific, from Russia and northern Japan, throughout the Aleutians, down the coasts of Alaska and British Columbia, to as far south as Baja. Scientists estimate up to 300,000 sea otters once inhabited this area. That changed in 1741 when traders realized that sea otter pelts were sought after for the unusually dense fur that enables them to survive in cold seas without the blubber of whales or sea lions. Of the three remaining subspecies of sea otters around the world, two are found here in North America: the southern, or California sea otter and the northern sea otter. The third subspecies is the Russian sea otter.

Sea otters play a critical role in the marine ecosystem as a keystone species. They promote a healthy kelp forest that, in turn, supports thousands of organisms. Sea otters are also an indicator or sentinel species. They are dying of diseases that have land-based connections. Since humans and sea otters eat many of the same seafood items, high rates of sea otter disease may be a warning for both human health and marine ecosystem health.

The Oregon Coast Aquarium has participated in a sea otter breeding loan program with the Seattle Aquarium. Two sea otter pups born there are the offspring of Adaa, who was sent to Seattle on breeding loan from the Oregon Coast Aquarium. Adaa’s first pup, a male named Chugach, was born in 2005, to Aniak who was a first time mother. The second pup, named Alki, also a male, was born in 2005 to Lootas.

“The sea otters have been very cooperative this summer,” says Judy Tuttle, Aquarium Curator of Mammals. “In general, they are a nice bunch of guys who are getting along. We’ve seen no major fights and they seem to be very easy with each others’ company. The Oregon Coast Aquarium is very fortunate in having the largest sea otter exhibit in North America and in addition, it is well designed with lots of visual barriers so the guys can each stake out a small territory out of sight of the others,” said Tuttle.

Sea Otter Awareness Week Schedule

September 21–27 (Daily)
10 am-5 pm Aquarium Lobby – Sea Otter Station
Learn all about the sea otter, touch sea otter fur, and learn why we celebrate Sea Otter Awareness Week. Take home a sea otter craft.

1 pm and 3:30 pm Sea otter feedings & ice treats

Sunday, September 21 and Saturday, September 27: Sea Otter Encounter 12:30–1:30 pm
Sea Otter Encounters allow participants to go behind-the-scenes to learn about the sea otter's many adaptations and the numerous challenges these adaptations pose for the Aquarium's mammalogists. Next, it's off to the kitchen to learn about how food is prepared for these animals. Meet an Aquarium Mammalogist to learn about animal care and feeding as you watch the sea otters up close. $30 for members and $35 for nonmembers. Make reservations in advance by calling 541-867-3474 Ext. 2313. (Limit 10 people per encounter)

1:30pm Theater – “All About Otters” presentation by a mammalogist

Wednesday, September 24
1:30pm Theater – “All About Otters” presentation by a mammalogist

Friday, September 26
1:30pm Theater – “All About Otters” presentation by a mammalogist

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