Sea otter (Enhydra lutris) COSEWIC assessment and status report 2007L chapter 7


Habitat Requirements

The extent of sea otter habitat is defined by their ability to dive to the sea floor for food. Sea otters occur within 1-2 km of shore but can also be abundant far from shore in areas where water is less than 40 m deep (Riedman and Estes 1990). When present, kelp beds are often used habitually as rafting sites (Loughlin 1980; Jameson 1989). Kelp beds are also used for foraging and are important, though not essential, habitat components. Soft-bottom communities that support clam species are also very important foraging habitat for otters and can sustain high densities of otters (Kvitek et al. 1992; Kvitek et al. 1993).

In British Columbia, sea otters occupy exposed coastal areas with extensive rocky reefs and associated shallow depths along the west coast of Vancouver Island and the central British Columbia coast, but weather and sea conditions may influence habitat use. Sea otters tend to occur in these exposed areas during periods of calm weather, but within their home ranges, may aggregate inshore during inclement weather, particularly during winter (Morris et al. 1981; Watson 1993). Sightings of otters in inlets and areas that would seem to offer some protection from storms tend to be more common in winter than in spring and summer (Dunlop et al. 2003; Stewart pers. comm. 2005; Osborne, pers. comm. 2006).

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