Did you know that there are 13 species of otters? Otters are either semiaquatic (meaning they live partly on land and partly in water), aquatic (live in both fresh and salt water), and marine (live primarily in salt water). Here in California, we are most familiar with the adorable sea otter, which are most famously associated with the Monterey Bay. The sea otter can be found all along the California coast to as far north as the Aleutian Islands in Alaska(1).
In addition to the sea otter, there is also the marine otter, which lives along the coast and offshore islands of Chile to Cape Horn(2). Marine otters are the smallest of the otter species.
There are also a variety of otters that live in freshwater river habitats. The North American river otter, which is semiaquatic, lives in inland waterways and coastal areas in Canada, the Pacific Northwest, Atlantic states, and the Gulf of Mexico. Despite the name, they can live in lakes, inland wetlands, coastal shorelines, marshes, and estuaries.
Aquatic and semiaquatic otters also live in Europe, Asia, Africa, as well as North, Central, and South America. The giant otter, for example, lives in the rivers of tropical rainforests in South America(3).
World Otter Day
The International Otter Survival Fundopens a new window (IOSF) has been celebrating World Otter Dayopens a new window for the past five years. This year, World Otter Day falls on Wednesday, May 29th. This is an opportunity to help IOSF bring awareness to the conservation of otters. All 13 species of otters are threatened due to habitat loss, illegal trade (for fur and pets), hunting, pollution, and even more challenges.
You can show your support for otters and IOSF’s mission to protect them. You can use #worldotterday in social media to spread awareness or check out some of the resources and ideasopens a new window from IOSF.
You can also learn more about otters by checking out one of these books from San Mateo County Libraries!
The Otter of Death
Dive into this marine biology cozy mystery where otters play a big detective role.
Return of the Sea Otter
Learn about the recovery of the sea otter along the Pacific coast and how modern conservation policies are shaping their comeback.
Though not specifically about otters, this historical fiction novel switches between past and present and tells the story about how the Monterey Bay Aquariumopens a new window came to be. You can visit sea otters at the Monterey Bay Aquarium or watch them virtually on their web cameraopens a new window.
Sea Otter Heroes
Follow science in action as a marine biologist discovers a connection between sea otters and sea grass in an estuary in northern California.
Learn to read with the adorable Otter and her teddy bear.
Don't let them disappear
Discover unique and special facts about 12 endangered species from around the world, including the sea otter.
An abandoned baby sea otter is rescued and brought to an aquarium. This picture book is inspired by a real baby otter rescued by the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
- Sea otter. (2011). In D. S. Blanchfield (Ed.), Environmental Encyclopedia. Detroit, MI: Gale. Retrieved from Science in Contextopens a new window.
- Marine Otter (Lontra felina). (2008). In Beacham's Guide to International Endangered Species (Vol. 2). Gale. Retrieved from Science in Contextopens a new window.
- Giant Otter (Pteronura brasiliensis). (2008). In Beacham's Guide to International Endangered Species (Vol. 2). Gale. Retrieved from Science in Contextopens a new window.
How will you celebrate World Otter Day? Let us know below!