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Sea otters are found along coast of the northern Pacific Ocean and the southern Bering Sea and are considered to be three separate populations centered in Russia, Alaska and California. The population of southern sea otters inhabits the central California coast. They live in coastal waters with rocky or muddy substrate and among kelp beds. They venture onto land very infrequently.
The sea otter preys on a variety of organisms including sea urchins, snails, crabs, scallops, fish and squid, which it captures with its front paws, not its jaws. Individual otters must eat 20 percent of their body weight every day to maintain their body temperature in the cold sea, so they spend much of the day hunting. The sea otter is one of the few mammals known to use tools. It picks up rocks from the ocean floor to break open the shells of urchins, crabs or clams while balancing them on its chest and stomach as it floats on its back at the surface.
See the southern sea otters in the Georgia-Pacific Cold Water Quest gallery.