The sea otter is an almost exclusively marine animal, spending little time ashore. Its fur is thick and glossy and ranges in colour from black to dark brown, with some white tipped hairs.

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Sea Otters and Humans

Stories are told of how sea otters nuzzled hunters who were about to club them to death, and of others who on seeing hunters' guns trained on them, turned their backs and covered their eyes with their forepaws. By the beginning of the last century, sea otters were so rare that pelts could fetch $1000 each.

Fortunately though, the American government passed a law in 1910 prohibiting the capture of sea otters in American waters. By 1911 other governments had also brought in legal protection for sea otters. By this time the sea otter population was down to about 1,000 worldwide. Now the population has risen to over 130,000, but sea otters still only occupy one-fifth of their original range, with colonies in California, western Alaska, and the Commander and Kurile Islands north of Japan. Sea otter population growth has stalled in recent years and there are only about 3,000 southern sea otters left in the wild today.

If it were not for government protection it almost certainly would have become extinct. Though with it's population still decreasing it is doubtful whether the sea otter will ever reoccupy its full range and it is still classified as endangered by the IUCN.

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