(Last Updated On: April 15, 2021)

The sea otter, scientific name Enhydra lutris is a marine mammal native to the coasts of the northern and eastern North Pacific Ocean. Adult sea otters sometimes weigh between 14 and 45 kg (31 and 99 lb), making them the heaviest members of the weasel family, however among the many smallest marine mammals. In this article, I am going to talk about Sea Otter baby, cute, legs, eating, etc.

Unlike most marine mammals, the ocean otter’s main type of insulation is an exceptionally thick coat of fur, the densest within the animal kingdom. Although it will probably stroll on land, the ocean otter is able to reside solely within the ocean.

Sea Otter Profile

Sea otters are a keystone species, which means the function of their setting has a higher impact than different species. As top predators, sea otters are essential to sustaining the steadiness of nearshore ecosystems, akin to kelp forests, embayments, and estuaries.

Without sea otters, sea urchins can overpopulate the ocean ground and devour the kelp forests that present cover and meals for a lot of different marine animals.

By sustaining wholesome kelp forests, sea otters additionally not directly assist to cut back ranges of atmospheric carbon dioxide, prevalent greenhouse gasoline, as kelp absorbs and sequesters carbon.

The sea otter inhabits nearshore environments, the place it dives to the ocean ground to forage. It preys totally on marine invertebrates akin to sea urchins, numerous mollusks and crustaceans, and a few species of fish. Its foraging and consuming habits are noteworthy in a number of respects.

First, its use of rocks to dislodge prey and to open shells makes it one of many few mammal species to make use of instruments. In most of its range, it’s a keystone species, controlling sea urchin populations which might in any other case inflict in-depth harm to kelp forest ecosystems.

Its diet contains prey species that might be additionally valued by people as meals, resulting in conflicts between sea otters and fisheries.

Sea otters, whose numbers have been as soon as estimated at 150,000–300,000, have been hunted extensively for his or her fur between 1741 and 1911, and the world inhabitants fell to 1,000–2,000 people residing in a fraction of their historic range.

A subsequent worldwide ban on looking, sea otter conservation efforts, and reintroduction packages into beforehand populated areas have contributed to numbers rebounding, and the species occupies about two-thirds of its former range.

The restoration of the ocean otter is taken into account as vital success in marine conservation, though populations within the Aleutian Islands and California have not too long ago declined or have plateaued at depressed ranges. For these causes, the ocean otter stays categorized as an endangered species.

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Sea Otter Population and distribution

Sea otters dwell in coastal waters 15 to 23 meters (50 to 75 ft) deep and often keep inside a kilometer (⅔ mi) of the shore. They are discovered most frequently in areas with safety from probably the most extreme ocean winds, akin to rocky coastlines, thick kelp forests, and barrier reefs.

Although they’re most strongly related to rocky substrates, sea otters also can dwell in areas the place the ocean ground consists primarily of mud, sand, or silt.

Their northern range is restricted by ice, as sea otters can survive amidst drift ice however not land-fast ice. Individuals typically occupy a house range a couple of kilometers long and stay there year-round.

The sea otter inhabitants are assumed to have as soon as been 150,000 to 300,000, stretching in an arc throughout the North Pacific from northern Japan to the central Baja California Peninsula in Mexico.

The fur commerce that started within the 1740s diminished the ocean otter’s numbers to an estimated 1,000 to 2,000 members in 13 colonies.

Hunting data researched by historian Adele Ogden place the westernmost restrict of the looking grounds off the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido and the easternmost restrict off Punta Morro Hermosa about 21.5 miles (34.6 km) south of Punta Eugenia, Baja California’s westernmost headland in Mexico.

In about two-thirds of its former range, the species is at various ranges of restoration, with high inhabitants densities in some areas and threatened populations in others.

Sea otters at present have stable populations in elements of the Russian east coast, Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, and California, with studies of recolonizations in Mexico and Japan. Population estimates made between 2004 and 2007 give a worldwide total of roughly 107,000 sea otters.

Sea Otter Description

The sea otter is likely one of the smallest marine mammal species, however, it’s the heaviest mustelid. Male sea otters often weigh 22 to 45 kg (49 to 99 lb) and are 1.2 to 1.5 m (3 ft 11 in to 4 ft 11 in) in size, although specimens as much as 54 kg (119 lb) have been recorded.

Females are smaller, weighing 14 to 33 kg (31 to 73 lb) and measuring 1.0 to 1.4 m (3 ft 3 in to 4 ft 7 in) in size. For its size, the male otter’s baculum may be very massive, large, and bent upwards, measuring 150 mm (5.9 in) in size and 15 mm (0.59 in) on the base.

The sea otter propels itself underwater by shifting the rear end of its body, together with its tail and hind feet, up and down, and is able to speeds of as much as 9 km/h (5.6 mph).

When underwater, its body is long and streamlined, with the quick forelimbs pressed intently towards the chest. When on the floor, it often floats on its back and strikes by sculling its feet and tail backward and forward.

At relaxation, all 4 limbs might be folded onto the torso to preserve warmth, whereas, on significantly scorching days, the hind feet could also be held underwater for cooling.

The sea otter’s body is extremely buoyant due to its massive lung capability – about 2.5 occasions higher than that of similar-sized land mammals – and the air trapped in its fur. The sea otter walks with a careless, rolling gait on land, and may run in a bounding movement.

Whiskers

Long, extremely delicate whiskers and front paws assist the ocean otter to discover prey by contact when waters are darkish or murky.

Researchers have famous after they strategy in plain view, sea otters react more quickly when the wind is blowing in the direction of the animals, indicating the sense of scent is more vital than sight as a warning sense.

Other observations point out the ocean otter’s sense of sight is beneficial above and beneath the water, though not so good as that of seals. It’s listening to is neither significantly acute nor poor.

Sea Otter Diet

Sea otters devour over 100 prey species. In most of its range, the ocean otter’s diet consists virtually solely of marine benthic invertebrates, together with sea urchins, fats innkeeper worms, a wide range of bivalves akin to clams, and mussels, abalone, different mollusks, crustaceans, and snails. Its prey ranges in size from tiny limpets and crabs to massive octopuses.

Where prey akin to sea urchins, clams, and abalone are present in a range of sizes, sea otters have a tendency to pick bigger objects over smaller ones of the comparable sort. In California, they’ve been famous to disregard Pismo clams smaller than Three inches (7 cm) throughout.

In a couple of northern areas, fish are additionally eaten. In research carried out at Amchitka Island within the 1960s, the place the ocean otter inhabitants were at carrying capability, 50% of meals present in sea otter stomachs was fish.

The fish species have been often bottom-dwelling and sedentary or sluggish kinds, akin to Hemilepidotus hemilepidotus and family Tetraodontidae. However, south of Alaska on the North American coast, fish are a negligible or extraordinarily minor part of the ocean otter’s diet.

Contrary to popular depictions, sea otters not often eat starfish, and any kelp that’s consumed apparently passes by way of the ocean otter’s system undigested.

The people inside a selected space typically differ in their foraging strategies and prey sorts and have a tendency to comply with the identical patterns as their moms.

The diet of native populations additionally modifications over time, as sea otters can considerably deplete populations of extremely most popular prey akin to massive sea urchins, and prey availability can also be affected by different elements akin to fishing by people.

Sea otters can completely take away abalone from an area aside from specimens in deep rock crevices, nonetheless, they by no means utterly wipe out a prey species from an area.

A 2007 Californian examination demonstrated, in areas, the place meals were comparatively scarce, a greater variety of prey was consumed. Surprisingly, although, the diets of people have been more specialized in these areas than in areas the place meals were plentiful.

Sea Otter Adaptation

The sea otter shows quite a few variations to its marine setting. The nostrils and small ears can shut. The hind feet, which give most of its propulsion in swimming, are long, broadly flattened, and absolutely webbed.

The fifth digit on every hind foot is longest, facilitating swimming whereas on its back, however making strolling tough. The tail is pretty quick, thick, barely flattened, and muscular.

The front paws are quick with retractable claws, with powerful pads on the palms that allow gripping slippery prey. The bones present osteosclerosis, growing their density to cut back buoyancy.

Unlike most different marine mammals, the ocean otter has no blubber and depends on its exceptionally thick fur to maintain heat. With as much as 150,000 strands of hair per sq. centimeter (practically one million per sq in), its fur is the densest of any animal.

The fur consists of long, waterproof guard hairs and quick underfur; the guard hairs maintain the dense underfur layer dry. Coldwater is stored utterly away from the pores and skin and warmth loss is restricted. The fur is thick year-round, as it’s shed and changed progressively fairly than in a definite molting season.

As the power of the guard hairs to repel water depends upon utmost cleanliness, the ocean otter has the power to succeed in and groom the fur on any part of its body, making the most of its free pores and skin and an unusually supple skeleton.

The coloration of the pelage is often deep brown with silver-gray speckles, but it will probably range from yellowish or grayish brown to virtually black. In adults, the pinnacle, throat, and chest are lighter in color than the remainder of the body.

Teeth

An adult’s 32 teeth, significantly the molars, are flattened and rounded for crushing fairly than chopping meals. Seals and sea otters are the carnivores with two pairs of decrease incisor teeth fairly than three; the adult dental method is 3.1.3.12.1.3.2.

The teeth and bones are typically stained purple because of ingesting sea urchins. The sea otter has a metabolic fee two or 3 times that of comparatively sized terrestrial mammals.

It should eat an estimated 25 to 38% of its personal bodyweight in meals every day to burn the energy necessary to counteract the lack of warmth as a result of the cold water environment. Its digestive effectivity is estimated at 80 to 85%, and meals are digested and handed in as little as three hours.

Most of its need for water is met by way of meals, though, in distinction to most different marine mammals, it additionally drinks seawater. Its comparatively massive kidneys allow it to derive contemporary water from seawater and excrete concentrated urine.

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Sea Otter Behavior

The sea otter is diurnal. It has a period of foraging and consuming within the morning, beginning about an hour before dawn, then rests or sleeps in mid-day. Foraging resumes for a couple of hours within the afternoon and subsides before sundown, and a 3rd foraging interval could happen around midnight.

Females with pups look more inclined to feed at night. Observations of the period of time a sea otter should spend every day foraging range from 24 to 60%, apparently relying on the provision of meals within the space.

Sea otters spend a lot of their time grooming, which consists of cleansing the fur, untangling knots, eradicating free fur, rubbing the fur to squeeze out water and introduce air, and blowing air into the fur.

To informal observers, it seems as if the animals are scratching, however, they don’t seem to be recognized to have lice or different parasites within the fur. When consuming, sea otters roll within the water often, apparently to clean meals scraps from their fur.

Sea Otter Foraging

The sea otter hunts in brief dives, typically to the ocean ground. Although it will probably maintain its breath for as much as 5 minutes, its dives sometimes final about one minute and never more than 4.

It is the one marine animal able to lifting and turning over rocks, which it typically does with its front paws when trying to find prey. The sea otter can also pluck snails and different organisms from kelp and dig deep into underwater mud for clams. It is the one marine mammal that catches fish with its forepaws fairly than with its teeth.

Under every foreleg, the ocean otter has a free pouch of pores and skin that extends throughout the chest. In this pouch (preferentially the left one), the animal shops collected meals to convey to the floor.

This pouch additionally holds a rock, distinctive to the otter, that’s used to interrupt open shellfish and clams. There, the ocean otter eats whereas floating on its back, utilizing its forepaws to tear meals aside and convey it to its mouth.

It can chew and swallow small mussels with its shells, whereas massive mussel shells could also be twisted aside. It makes use of its decrease incisor teeth to access the meat in shellfish.

To eat massive sea urchins, that are largely coated with spines, the ocean otter bites by way of the underside the place the spines are shortest and licks the delicate contents out of the urchin’s shell.

The sea otter’s use of rocks when looking and feeding makes it one of many few mammal species to make use of instruments. To open arduous shells, it could pound its prey with each paw towards a rock on its chest.

To pry an abalone off its rock, it hammers the abalone shell utilizing a big stone, with noticed charges of 45 blows in 15 seconds. Releasing an abalone, which may cling to rock with a power equal to 4,000 occasions its personal bodyweight, requires a number of dives.

Although every adult and impartial juvenile forages alone, sea otters are likely to rest collectively in single-sex teams referred to as rafts. A raft sometimes accommodates 10 to 100 animals, with male rafts being bigger than feminine ones.

The largest raft ever seen contained over 2000 sea otters. To maintain from drifting out to sea when resting and consuming, sea otters could wrap themselves in kelp.

A male sea otter is almost certainly to mate if he maintains a breeding territory in an area that can also be favored by females. As autumn is the height breeding season in most areas, males sometimes defend their territory solely from spring to autumn.

During this time, males patrol the boundaries of their territories to exclude different males, though precise preventing is uncommon.

Adult females transfer freely between male territories, the place they outnumber adult males by an average of 5 to at least one. Males that do not need territories are likely to congregate in massive, male-only teams, and swim by way of feminine areas when trying to find a mate.

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Vocal

The species reveals a wide range of vocal behaviors. The cry of a pup is usually in comparison with that of a gull. Females coo when they’re apparently content; males could grunt as an alternative.

Distressed or frightened adults could whistle, hiss, or in excessive circumstances, scream. Although sea otters might be playful and sociable, they don’t seem to be thought of to be actually social animals. They spend a lot of time alone, and every adult can meet its personal looking, grooming, and protection wants.

A keystone species

Sea otters are a traditional instance of a keystone species; their presence impacts the ecosystem more profoundly than their size and numbers would recommend. They maintain the inhabitants of sure benthic (sea ground) herbivores, significantly sea urchins, in verify.

Sea urchins graze on the decrease stems of kelp, inflicting the kelp to float away and die. Loss of the habitat and vitamins supplied by kelp forests results in profound cascade results on the marine ecosystem. North Pacific areas that do not need sea otters typically flip into urchin barrens, with plentiful sea urchins and no kelp forest.

Kelp forests are extraordinarily productive ecosystems. Kelp forests sequester (soak up and seize) CO2 from the ambiance by way of photosynthesis. Sea otters could assist mitigate results of local weather change by their cascading trophic influence.

The reintroduction of sea otters to British Columbia has led to a dramatic improvement within the health of coastal ecosystems, and comparable modifications have been noticed as sea otter populations recovered within the Aleutian and Commander Islands and the Big Sur coast of California.

However, some kelp forest ecosystems in California have additionally thrived without sea otters, with sea urchin populations apparently managed by different elements. The function of sea otters in sustaining kelp forests has been noticed to be more vital in areas of open coast than in more protected bays and estuaries.

Sea otters have an effect on rocky ecosystems which might be dominated by mussel beds by eradicating mussels from rocks. This permits areas for competing species and will increase species variety.

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Sea Otter Reproduction and life cycle

Sea otters are polygynous: males have a number of feminine companions. However, momentary pair-bonding happens for a couple of days between a feminine in estrus and her mate.

Mating takes place within the water and might be tough, the male biting the feminine on the muzzle – which frequently leaves scars on the nostril – and typically holding her head underneath water.

Births happen year-round, with peaks between May and June in northern populations and between January and March in southern populations.

Gestation seems to range from 4 to 12 months because the species is able to delayed implantation adopted by 4 months of being pregnant. In California, sea otters often breed each year, about twice as typically as these in Alaska.

Birth often takes place within the water and sometimes produces a single pup weighing 1.4 to 2.3 kg (Three to five lb). Twins happen in 2% of births; nonetheless, often just one pup survives. At delivery, the eyes are open, ten teeth are seen, and the pup has a thick coat of child fur.

Mothers have been noticed to lick and fluff a new child for hours; after grooming, the pup’s fur retains a lot of air, the pup floats like a cork and can’t dive. The fluffy child fur is changed by adult fur after about 13 weeks.

Nursing lasts six to eight months in Californian populations and 4 to 12 months in Alaska, with the mom starting to supply bits of prey at one to 2 months.

The milk from a sea otter’s two stomach nipples is wealthy in fats and more much like the milk of different marine mammals than that of different mustelids.

A pup, with steerage from its mom, practices swimming and diving for a number of weeks before it is ready to attain the ocean ground. Initially, the objects it retrieves are of little meals worth, akin to brightly colored starfish and pebbles.

Juveniles are sometimes impartial at six to eight months, but a mom could also be compelled to desert a pup if she can’t discover sufficient meals for it; on the different excessive, a pup could nurse till it’s virtually adult size.

Pup mortality is high, significantly throughout a person’s first winter – by one estimate, solely 25% of pups survive their first year. Pups born to skilled moms have the best survival charges.

Females carry out all duties of feeding and elevating offspring, and have sometimes been noticed caring for orphaned pups. Much has been written in regards to the level of devotion of sea otter moms for his or her pups – a mom offers her toddler virtually fixed consideration, cradling it on her chest away from the chilly water and attentively grooming its fur.

When foraging, she leaves her pup floating on the water, typically wrapped in kelp to maintain it from floating away; if the pup is just not sleeping, it cries loudly till she returns. Mothers have been recognized to hold their pups for days after the pups’ deaths.

Females change into sexually mature at around three or 4 years of age and males at around 5; nonetheless, males typically don’t efficiently breed till a couple of years later. A captive male sired offspring at age 19.

In the wild, sea otters dwell to a maximum age of 23 years, with lifespans starting from 10 to 15 years for males and 15–20 years for females.

Several captive people have lived previous 20 years, and a female on the Seattle Aquarium died at the age of 28 years. Sea otters within the wild typically develop worn teeth, which can account for his or her apparently shorter lifespans.

There are a number of documented circumstances by which male sea otters have forcibly copulated with juvenile harbor seals, typically leading to loss of life. Similarly, compelled copulation by sea otters involving animals apart from Pacific harbor seals has sometimes been reported.

Threats

The most vital risk to sea otters is oil spills, to which they’re significantly weak since they depend on their fur to maintain heat. When their fur is soaked with oil, it loses its capability to retain air, and the animals can shortly die from hypothermia.

The liver, kidneys, and lungs of sea otters additionally change into broken after they inhale oil or ingest it when grooming. The Exxon Valdez oil spill of 24 March 1989 killed 1000’s of sea otters in Prince William Sound, and as of 2006, the lingering oil within the space continues to have an effect on the inhabitants.

Predators

Leading mammalian predators of this species embrace orcas and sea lions, and bald eagles could seize pups from the floor of the water. Young predators could kill an otter and never eat it.

On land, younger sea otters could face assault from bears and coyotes. In California, great white sharks are their main predator however there isn’t proof that the sharks eat them.

Urban runoff transporting cat feces into the ocean brings Toxoplasma gondii, an obligate parasite of felids, which has killed sea otters. Parasitic infections of Sarcocystis neurona are additionally related to human exercise.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey and the CDC, northern sea otters off Washington have been contaminated with the H1N1 flu virus and “maybe a newly identified animal host of influenza viruses”.

Ecological Role

Some of the ocean otter’s most popular prey species, significantly abalone, clams, and crabs, are additionally food sources for people. In some areas, large declines in shellfish harvests have been blamed on the ocean otter, and intense public debate has taken place over the way to handle the competitors between sea otters and people for seafood.

Conservation

During the 20th century, sea otter numbers rebounded in about two-thirds of their historic range, a restoration thought of one of many biggest successes in marine conservation.

However, the IUCN nonetheless lists the ocean otter as an endangered species, and describes the numerous threats to sea otters as oil air pollution, predation by orcas, poaching, and conflicts with fisheries – sea otters can drown if entangled in fishing gear.

The looking of sea otters is not authorized aside from restricted harvests by indigenous peoples within the United States. Poaching was a critical concern within the Russian Far East instantly after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991; nonetheless, it has declined considerably with stricter regulation enforcement and higher economic situations.

Sea Otter Facts

U.S. and worldwide law protect threatened sea otters. Hunted to the sting of extinction by fur merchants within the 18th and 19th centuries, the few remaining sea otters (about 2,000 scattered in remnant colonies all through the North Pacific rim) have been first protected by the International Fur Seal Treaty in 1911.

Sea otters within the United States obtained extra protection with the passage of the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act within the 1970s.

Sea otters eat 25 % of their body weight in meals daily. Sea otters’ diet contains sea urchins, crabs, mussels, and clams, which they’re recognized to crack open with a rock and eat whereas floating within the water.

To discover meals, sea otters could sometimes dive as deep as 250 feet and can use their delicate whiskers to find small prey inside crevices or their robust forepaws to dig for clams.

A gaggle of resting otters known as a raft. Otters like to rest in teams. Researchers have seen concentrations of over 1,000 otters floating collectively. To maintain from drifting away from one another, sea otters will wrap themselves up in seaweed, forming one thing that resembles a raft.

Forget every little thing you thought you knew about otter species. Thirteen completely different species exist across the globe. The U.S. is house to 2 species: the ocean otter and the North American river otter.

River otters are a lot smaller — averaging 10-30 pounds — with a cylindrical body and small head. Sea otters weigh more — around 45-90 pounds — with massive, furry faces.

Don’t problem otters to a breath-holding competitor. An otter’s lung capability is 2.5 occasions higher than that of similar-sized land mammals. Sea otters have been recognized to remain submerged for more than 5 minutes at a time.

River otters, nonetheless, can maintain their breath for as much as eight minutes. The elevated time underwater improves otters’ alternative to sense prey and forage for meals.

The otter is likely one of the few mammals that use instruments. A sea otter’s tool of selection: sometimes a rock that can be utilized as a hammer or anvil to interrupt open hard-shelled prey.

Ever marvel the place otters truly retailer these instruments for secure retaining? They have a free patch of pores and skin underneath their armpit to retailer each the meals they’ve foraged and their rock to crack it open.

Otters would possibly look delicate and cuddly however stay harmful to wild animals. Otters have robust teeth and a strong chew. So whether or not you see an otter on land or at sea, remember to preserve a secure distance of not less than 50 yards and by no means feed sea otters. Learn more about staying secure around sea otters.

Otters have some fascinating family members. Otters are a part of the Mustelidae family, which is a family of carnivorous mammals that features skunks, weasels, wolverines, and badgers. The sea otter is the biggest member of the weasel family, but the smallest marine mammal in North America.

Otters are an important keystone species. A “keystone species” is a species that’s essential to how an ecosystem’s capabilities as a result of it have large-scale results on the communities by which it lives.

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Along the Pacific coast, sea otters assist control the ocean urchin inhabitants. Fewer sea urchins in flip assist forestall kelp forests from being overgrazed. In California, analysis has discovered that sea otters additionally improve seagrass beds, and in Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park, sea otters’ enlargement into the world marked a gradual return of a more various ecosystem and a thrilling moment in colonization efforts.

Sea otters can have a pup any time of the year. Southern sea otters breed and pup year-round, whereas northern sea otter pups in Alaska are often born within the spring.

A new child pup wants fixed consideration and can stick with its mom for six months till it develops survival skills. Fun truth: An otter pup’s fur is so dense that it can’t dive underwater till it will get its adult fur. This is useful when moms go away with their pups safely floating on the water’s floor whereas they forage for meals.

Most sea otters call Alaska home. Approximately 90 % of the world’s sea otters dwell in coastal Alaska. Many dwell within the waters surrounding public lands together with Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge, Kenai Fjords National Park, and Glacier Bay National Park. Southern sea otters range alongside the mainland shoreline of California from San Mateo County to Santa Barbara County, and San Nicolas Island.

Sea otters have the thickest fur of any animal. Their fur accommodates between 600,000 to 1,000,000 hair follicles per sq. inch. Unlike most different marine mammals, otters lack a blubber layer.

Instead, they rely upon their dense, water-resistant fur to offer insulation. To maintain heat, sea otters spend a big portion of their days grooming and conditioning their fur. This traps air and warmth next to their pores and skin.

Sea Otter in the Aquariums and zoos

Sea otters can do effectively in captivity, and are featured in over 40 public aquariums and zoos. The Seattle Aquarium turned the first establishment to boost sea otters from conception to maturity with the delivery of Tichuk in 1979, adopted by three more pups within the early 1980s.

In 2007, a YouTube video of two sea otters holding paws drew 1.5 million viewers in two weeks and had over 20 million views as of January 2015. Filmed 5 years beforehand on the Vancouver Aquarium, it was YouTube’s most popular animal video at the time, though it has since been surpassed.

The lighter-colored otter within the video is Nyac, a survivor of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill. Nyac died in September 2008, at the age of 20. Milo, the darker one, died of lymphoma in January 2012.

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