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One of the cutest wildlife species, these marine mammals on the Pacific Coast hold hands with one another and play an important ecological role in the ocean’s waters.


David Mizejewski: Happy National Wildlife Week, we’re going to talk about one of America’s cutest wildlife species, the sea otter.


David Mizejewski: Everybody’s familiar with sea otters. They’re marine mammals that live on the Pacific coast from California, all the way up through the Pacific Northwest and into Alaska. They float on their backs in the water, they hold hands so they don’t float away, really, really cute animals. But they’re also really ecologically important. They help keep animals like sea urchins in check. If the sea urchins are overpopulated, they’ll eat all the kelp that lots of other animals rely on.

Peter Gros: And they are so important, they do so much good. You can see them sometimes laying on their back with a stone and they’ll have abalone on their chest, or a sea urchin that you just mentioned, Dave, and they’ll crack it open and then consume it. They were harvested terribly for years and years, and their populations almost completely disappeared. They’re protected now from Southern California up to mid-California and they’re coming back rather nicely. If you really like to see them up close and personal, Monterey Bay has an entire group of otters that lay about 500 feet off the shore where you can get a good look at them. Some of these were actually part of the Valdez oil spill and they have been saved and released back to the wild.

David Mizejewski: And it’s a really good reminder that some animals, you might actually be able to get up pretty close to. But as always, you want to keep wildlife wild. They’re not our pets, so never try to get near a sea otter, or any animal for that matter, in the wild. Don’t try to pet it, don’t try to feed it. Let them be wild and they’ll thrive and be happy, and so will you. And that’s really what National Wildlife Week is all about. It’s about celebrating our wild neighbors and making sure they have habitat too. So I hope everybody goes right now and takes the National Wildlife Week pledge.


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