Sea otters in Morro Bay, courtesy of City of Morro Bay
Sea otter in Morro Bay, courtesy of John Calambokidis
River otter, courtesy of Leo Shaw
Sea otters are the only marine member of the mustelid family, which includes land mammals such as river otters.
Once hunted to extinction for their soft, dense fur, sea otters have made a comeback on the west coast. Thriving populations live in coastal kelp beds off the central coast of California and in Washington, British Columbia, and Alaska.
Often mistaken for their much larger sea-going cousins, river otters are relatively common near ponds, lakes, rivers, sloughs, estuaries, bays, and in open waters along the coast. River otters are equally at home on land and in water. They feed on fish and shellfish, and live in dens on shore.