Readers’ wildlife photos

Joe Dickinson sends California sea otters (Enhydra lutris) for us today! They’re surely among the world’s cutest mammals, especially as pups. Here are his notes:

My wife and I went down to Moss Landing today to check on the sea otters. We were surprised to see four or five otters lying on a beach (never seen before in many visits). Interesting but kind of boring (first photo). Then another otter came ashore and put on quite a show. The last two photos (from previous visits) are more typical.


  1. Terry Sheldon
    Posted May 11, 2017 at 7:32 am | Permalink

    Love sea otters! Thanks for sharing!!

  2. Posted May 11, 2017 at 7:43 am | Permalink

    Lucky you! Thanks for sharing these!

  3. Posted May 11, 2017 at 7:52 am | Permalink

    Fun pictures of wild. My granddaughter was born in NZ and the series was enjoyed by all. Six, she wants to be a scientist

  4. Posted May 11, 2017 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    Otter madness! (you knew someone was going to say it, didn’t you?)

  5. Sshort
    Posted May 11, 2017 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    Beyond cute.

    I have a query for the assembled: Is the lighter face and darker body an adaptation for thermal efficiency? Or is there another function?

    • nicky
      Posted May 11, 2017 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

      Good question!

  6. Merilee
    Posted May 11, 2017 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    Lovely, Joe! You’ve got me California, and specifically Point Lobos, dreamin’.

  7. Debbie Coplan
    Posted May 11, 2017 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    Great photos! so playful and fun to watch….
    pictures captured that. Thanks!

  8. Posted May 11, 2017 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    Unless you want to ruin your day, don’t google anything pertaining to their behavior in the wild. I kid you not – they are some sick freaks.

    • sshort
      Posted May 11, 2017 at 10:43 am | Permalink

      Yeah… I did just hit the Wikipedia article on sea otters. The males are pretty rough in their mating habits, it would seem. And not just with sea otters. Sometimes with very bad consequences.


      But…. ahhhh…. they’re so cute!!

      • Posted May 11, 2017 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

        Yes, I see in that article that the male often bites and holds the female’s nose. Now that I think about it, I have seen otters with sore noses more than once in the past.

  9. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted May 11, 2017 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    Very good, and thank you for sharing!

  10. Heather Hastie
    Posted May 11, 2017 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    I’m a sucker for sea otters. Thanks for these. 🙂

  11. John Conoboy
    Posted May 11, 2017 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    Very nice photos, Joe. In many visits to the Monterey/Carmel area, I never saw sea otters on a beach either. Moss Landing is a great spot and home to my favorite whale watching company. Is this particular beach somewhat protected, making it safer for the critters to come to shore?

    • Posted May 11, 2017 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

      Yes, it’s just inside the jetty on the southwest side of the harbor, down a pretty steep embankment from the road that runs out the jetty. Moreover, it is roped off at the top of the embankment. It’s quite possible otters have been there previously but I never look down. focusing instead on otters in the water nearby (typically 25 – 50). I just noticed some other folks with long lenses pointing down and went to have a look.

    • mudskipper
      Posted May 11, 2017 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

      The sea otters that raft up (congregate in groups) where Joe is describing are largely male sea otters that don’t hold territory. For some reason, this is one of their favorite spots to raft up. The females and territorial males hang around further up in the slough. There are protected areas within the slough where people are not allowed, and otters frequently haul out on land in those areas.

  12. robert van bakel
    Posted May 11, 2017 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

    On the beach? I didn’t even know they had land tendencies; thanks!

    Also, on the land it is easy to see their adaptive features more clearly. Their legs, feet, nose , ears, fur, etc show a clear move away from their landridden breatheren, into a complete, at home, functional, marine mammal.

    This is a living transitional form; next step, sea lion.

  13. mudskipper
    Posted May 11, 2017 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

    Just got back from kayaking in Elkhorn Slough at Moss Landing and wanted to comment on this.

    Sea otter researchers now believe that sea otters were originally primarily estuary dwellers and that they frequently hauled out on land to rest and conserve calories. (Takes a lot of calories to stay warm in the cold Pacific ocean.) Humans, specifically human hunters of otters, changed this behavior. In Elkhorn Slough, we are beginning to see the otters return to their original habitat and habits. Elkhorn Slough has the single largest population of otters in California.

    Many of us hope that, with the ongoing restoration of San Francisco bay, otters might once again start living there.

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