Unlike whales and sea lions that rely on a layer of blubber to keep them warm in the icy North Pacific Ocean, the sea otter is protected by its thick fur. While we humans have between 20,000 to 100,000 hairs on our heads, the sea otter has from 600,000 to a million hairs per square inch. It's this luxurious fur that made the sea otters so attractive to trappers, who brought the otters to near extinction until stopped by the International Fur Seal Treaty of 1911.[Editor's Note: An updated version of this topic can be found here: Sea Otters]
"In January 1977, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service placed sea otters on the Endangered Species list. This makes them protected by state and federal laws. Friends of the Sea Otter (FSO) is an advocacy group dedicated to actively pressuring state and federal agencies, not only to maintain the current protections for sea otters but to increase and broaden these preservation efforts." Best multimedia clicks are the Online Videos, Sea Otter Vocalizations and Sea Otter Illustrations.
The history of the sea otter along the Pacific coast has been tumultuous. Once thought to be extinct from excessive nineteenth-century hunting, today's California sea otters are all ancestors of a family of fifty sea otters that survived along the inaccessible coast of Big Sur. Although their numbers rose to 2,300 in 1995, their population has since started to decline. "And this time, scientists don't know why. Is the decline temporary or an indication of something more serious?" This fabulous site from the Monterey Bay Aquarium is my sea otter pick of the day!
"The southern sea otter is both an umbrella species and a keystone species. As an umbrella species, protections created for the sea otter and its habitat will benefit a large variety of other species. As a keystone species, the otter is responsible for much of the structure of the ecosystem in which it lives." The Otter Project site excels in explaining the sea otter's role in nature. It also features sea otter current events.