Sometimes, just below the surface, life happens. It roils and spins with a purpose that we, simply put, cannot truly understand.
Learning the ropes in the Aleutian bays of the Bering Sea can sometimes be a bit treacherous. But then there are days like this when the water is smooth as glass, the crab pots are full, and being a teen in Unalaska is void of angst. Nothing better.
The sea otter is a creature of daily habits that consist of napping and foraging. It forages and eats in the morning, usually taking it’s first meal in the predawn hour before sunrise. The otter naps during mid-day and hunts and forages until sunset. Many rest again and then forage for a third time around midnight. It is known to voraciously clean out beach foods in an area, then move on down the coast to new areas. It is said that the otter came to being when a brother and sister of Unangan decent threw themselves from a cliff and became otters.
Sea otters are one of the smallest sea mammals, but one of the largest members of the weasel family. Our otters, E.I. kenyoni, inhabit waters from the Eastern Aleutians to the Oregon Coast. Unlike most marine mammals who have dense blubber for cold protection, the sea otter’s primary form of insulation is an exceptionally thick coat of fur.
The presence of the otter in the ecosystem is more important than you might think. Otters keep the population of sea floor herbivores from over population. Especially sea urchins which graze on the lower stems of kelp often causing the death of kelp forests. Kelp forests, although very irritating to fishermen and their boat engines, are one of the most important parts of our ecosystem. Kelp forests absorb and capture CO2 from the air through photosynthesis, hence making the otter one of the creatures that can help impact the detrimental effects of climate change.
The otters pictured above have wrapped themselves in kelp after their afternoon foraging. Kelp helps keep the otters in place when they are resting or sleeping.