Returning home on our Big Sur road trip, we stopped at Elkhorn Slough to look for sea otters. We saw a sea otter there last summer while whale watching, and a person on the Blood Moon hike said that the other side of Elkhorn Slough has sea otters. He was right!
Elkhorn Slough supports seals and sea otters, and we catch cruises there in the summer to watch humpback whales. People can rent a kayak, take a class, or join tour group. This looks like a class or tour group, with a leader in front.
At 11:15, the sky was still overcast. I had hoped for clear skies on this winter day, so that the water would be blue instead of gray, providing contrast with the gray otters. But the weather was more like the summer weather pattern, when the coastal fog burns off late in the day.
This sea otter is grooming, spreading oil from glands to its fur, so it can remain dry and warm in the cold water.
Unlike most other marine mammals, the sea otter has no blubber and relies on its exceptionally thick fur to keep warm. With up to 150,000 strands of hair per square centimeter (nearly one million per sq in), its fur is the densest of any animal. The fur consists of long, waterproof guard hairs and short underfur; the guard hairs keep the dense underfur layer dry. Cold water is kept completely away from the skin and heat loss is limited.
Sea otters are playful and cute. This short video shows a sea otter rolling in the water.
Hunted for their dense fur, sea otters were nearly wiped out in California. “The historic population of California sea otters was estimated at 16,000 before the fur trade began. California’s sea otters are the descendants of a single colony of about 50 southern sea otters discovered near Bixby Bridge in Big Sur in 1938.” Like the California condor, these sea otters show that nature can recover when we act in time.