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SEA OTTER

Sea Otters have significant connection to the birth of  the Silver Trade of the Pacific Northwest Coast, as it was the trade of Sea Otter pelts for metal copper sheets used for hull repairs on European ships that ignited not only the coastal fur trade, but also sparked the beginning of metal jewellery carving among coastal peoples.

 

Marine Biologists have long stressed the importance for the return of  sea otter populations, due to the immense pressure placed on the kelp forest by invertebrates such as abalones and sea urchins.  As these invertebrates are favoured sustenance by sea otters, the return of sea otter population spells better health for marine and human life from the Pacific Northwest, and south to California.

 

Though they hunt and forage alone, sea otters gather in large numbers with other otters of the same sex, and bind themselves together and to the kelp in what scientists call "rafts."  The kelp protects the raft of sea otters from drifting to sea while they are resting.  Male rafts are generally larger than female rafts, and can include from 10-2000 sea otters per group.

Sea otters are considered challenging to hunt, and are often depicted in coastal art as playful and smart.  Sea otters remain an endangered species.

 

SOURCES

Kari Chalker - Totems to Turquoise: Native North American Jewelry Arts of the Northwest and Southwest 2004

Cheryl Shearar - Understanding Northwest Coast Art 

Online Source - Why are Sea Otters Important?  No Sea Otters, No Kelp Forest  www.seaotters.com