What Eats Sea Otters? [Sea Otter Predators]

Even though sea otters are among the main predators of creatures that are found near the seashore, some creatures still eat sea otters. These animals are high trophic-level terrestrials, pelagic predators, and avians.

Check out this list of predators that prey on and eat sea otters.

  1. Great White Sharks
  2. Sea Lions
  3. Killer Whales (Orcas)
  4. Bald Eagles
  5. Eared Seals (Otariids)
  6. Bears
  7. Coyotes
  8. Human

One of the best systems in the world keeps everything in balance in our world. Every animal gets eaten by another at a specific rate to keep the ecosystem balanced. So no organism goes completely extinct or overpopulates. Just like that, sea otters can be a target on giant predators’ diet lists.

Let’s move on to some interesting facts about these predators and learn more about how sea otters tend to protect themselves from these giant beasts!

Natural Predators of Sea Otters

Sea otters are normally prey for higher trophic level predators. These animals include:

1. Great White Sharks

great-white-shark
Great White Shark

In California, great white sharks are known as the primary predators of sea otters. However, in other parts of the world, sea otters being the prey of great white sharks is pretty mysterious because these kinds of sharks usually prey on sea lions and fatty seals. From 1985 to 2013, the U.S. Geological Survey found that the percentage of sharks killing sea otters tripled from 19% to 61%.

2. Sea Lions

sea lion
Sea Lion

Sea lions are also one of the key predators of sea otters. Steller sea lions usually stay between continental shelves and the coast, which is quite far from the shore. However, they mainly eat squid and fish. On the other hand, they also eat harbor seals, crustaceans, and sea otters.

3. Killer Whales (Orcas)

orca
Orca

Another predator of sea otters is Killer whales, otherwise known as Orcas. Killer whales are mammals that mostly eat other fish. However, unfortunately, due to overfishing in today’s times, the number of fish that orcas eat declined; hence, they had to turn to eating sea otters.

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It has now been found that sea otters are great food for giant killer whales because they have lots of calories that benefit them. Moreover, killer whales might also be one of the leading causes of the decline in the population of sea otters.

4. Bald Eagles

Bald eagles are also common predators of sea otters. They get almost 90% of their food from the sea, so they nest on coastal cliffs, islets, and shoreline sea stacks. These birds do not eat adult sea otters but are seen feeding on sea otter pups instead. However, due to the decline in the population of sea otters, scientists have observed changes in the diet of bald eagles.

5. Eared Seals (Otariids)

The Eared Seals, also referred to as Otariids, are another predator of sea otters. As members of the pinniped family, these seals are related to sea lions and fur seals. Their diet does not only consist of sea otters; however, they also eat crustaceans, fish, crabs, lobsters, and even krill.

6. Bears

Bears are also a widespread predator of sea otters. Since being categorized as an endangered species and receiving protection from the US, the otter population has been steadily growing.

As a result, otters have started competing with brown bears for clams, leading to a very tough competition between the two. Hence, bears have begun hunting sea otters. Some bears prefer eating deceased sea otters, whereas someone else may prefer eating them live.

7. Coyotes

Coyote
Coyote

Coyotes, which are part of the dog family, have also been recognized as significant predators of sea otters. Coyotes are animals that are equipped with great senses and excellent vision, so they have exceptional hunting abilities.

Do Humans Eat Sea Otters?

You will be surprised when you get to know whether humans also eat sea otters or not. Well, the answer is yes! Humans also eat sea otters!

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Sea otters are normally found in the Aleutian Islands, South Central and Southeast Alaska, British Columbia, and Washington. However, only some people in these regions are allowed to hunt down sea otters.

Sea otter hunting is only permitted by federal law for Alaska Natives who reside near the coast. According to people here, sea otter meat is quite delicious! Many Alaskan natives have assumed that their meat tastes good because of their amazing fishy diet.

Moreover, not only do they eat sea otter meat, but they use sea otters for many subsistence purposes with minimal waste. These people utilize the pelts for clothing, bedding, hats, and various ceremonial items.

What Is a Sea Otter’s Biggest Predator?

Sea otter
Sea Otter

We already discussed several natural predators of Sea otters. Nevertheless, great white sharks are not the largest sea otter predators in California, where they are the most significant.

According to ongoing research, killer whales, also known as orcas, are increasingly preying on sea otters in Alaska. The cause may be related to a decrease in their usual prey, like seals and sea lions.  

These predators, known as killer whales, especially in coastal areas, pose serious threats to the sea otter population in their respective regions.

How Do Sea Otters Protect Themselves from Predators?

Sea otter

Every animal has many ways to protect themselves from predators. Similarly, even sea otters have many interesting ways to protect themselves from their predators.

Sea otters employ three primary strategies to evade predators.

  • The first is fleeing away when seeing or sensing any danger.
  • Next is seeking refuge within the kelp forests, where they reside and are mostly successful in hiding.
  • Lastly, they occasionally come ashore. Additionally, sea otters possess sharp teeth that aid in their interactions with other sea otters.

FAQs

Do sea lions eat sea otters?

Yes, sea lions do eat sea otters. Even though a sea lion’s diet mainly consists of squid and fish, they sometimes feed on mammals that include sea otters, crustaceans, and harbor seals.

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What kinds of sharks eat sea otters?

Sea otters are mainly the prey of the Great White Sharks. No other kind of shark has been seen eating sea otters.

Do killer whales eat sea otters?

Yes, killer whales do eat sea otters. Killer whales can be considered one of the largest predators of sea otters. These whales can eat up to 1825 sea otters annually, so they do not just eat a few of them.

Why do whales eat sea otters?

Whales have now turned to eating sea otters due to a very common reason nowadays. This is because the overfishing and overexploitation of sea animals that killer whales would normally consume have caused a significant decline in whale food.

Do polar bears eat sea otters?

Polar bears don’t normally eat sea otters, but if given the chance, they would feed on them. However, this is very unlikely because polar bears cannot catch sea otters because they are fast-swimming animals. They are also very conscious of their surroundings, which helps them avoid being caught by a polar bear.

What eats sea otters in kelp forests?

Sea lions, seals, and gray whales rely on kelp forests for food. They feed on sea otters there and many other animals, including invertebrates and crustaceans found within the forests.

Conclusion

Sea otters face predation from great white sharks and orcas in different regions. They employ tactics such as fleeing, taking refuge in kelp forests, and occasionally coming ashore to evade predators.

Last but not least, changes in prey availability may be driving shifts in predation patterns. Sea otters’ strong teeth are used for defense and interactions with other otters. All the above-mentioned adaptations enable their survival in the face of predation.

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