I love most marine mammals but otters are in my top five favorite critters to photograph thanks to their playful nature, adorable faces and trickster attitudes. They are curious and will get into anything you might leave around - stealing boat covers, climbing up on kayaks or just popping up next to your boat to say 'Hi'.
Highly prized for their luxurious fur (850,000 to 1 million hairs per square inch) this member of the mustelidae (weasel family) was hunted to near extinction. They once numbered close to 1 million individuals but in the 1900's their population plummeted to 1-2,000. Today they have rebounded and while still threatened, it's not unusual to see otters floating along the Alaskan coastline or crunching on clams with wild abandon.
Unlike other marine mammals, otters rely on their fur to keep them warm rather than a blubber layer. They spend quite a lot of time keeping their luxurious fur clean, tangle free and full of air bubbles. It's a lot of fun to watch them rolling in the water as they groom.
The average life span of a sea otter in the wild is 10-20 years with females averaging 5 years on their male counterparts. The oldest recorded otter in captivity lived to 28 years! As an otter ages it's fur becomes more and more blond so it's pretty easy to tell who's been around the block.