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Husbandry

Husbandry

What are the safest procedures for restraining sea otters for blood draws or examination?  How should their food be properly handled and prepared?  This is the place to find out best husbandry practices for sea otters.

How do you know when a sea otter’s pelage has been fully restored? We know that sea otter’s rely on a unique form of thermal insulation among marine mammals. After being oiled and then washed, the natural oils that prevent the hairs from tangling and getting fouled with salts are washed away along with the oil.

Sea otters have the densest fur of any mammal and, unlike most other marine mammals, replace their fur throughout the year instead of undergoing a seasonal molt (Tarasoff 1974; Williams and Allen et al., 1995). Sea otters have guard hairs and many fine under-hairs that are microscopically interlocked in order to trap air and thus provide waterproofing, thermal insulation, and buoyancy.

Sea otters require a lot of food even in rehabilitation! Just like wild sea otters, otters in rehabilitation may be fed a diet that includes many different food items.  Otters that are permanent residents in facilities such as U.C. Santa Cruz’s Long Marine Laboratory are fed a diet that includes shrimp, surf clam, and squid.

The amount of food sea otters consume each day means there are a lot of opportunities for food-born pathogens to contaminate the otter’s diet. Proper short and long term storage of food is key for avoiding contaminated or unsafe food.