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Recording sea otters at the Seattle Aquarium

A friendly sea otter at the Seattle Aquarium. Photo by Jeff Rice
A friendly sea otter at the Seattle Aquarium. Photo by Jeff Rice

Washington's sea otters were once a casualty of the fur trade. They had disappeared from the state until their reintroduction in the 1970s, and now occasionally make their way into Puget Sound. They are rarely seen here—most of the supposed sea otter sightings in Puget Sound turn out to be river otters on a salty detour—but one reliable place to find them is the Seattle Aquarium. I visited early Sunday morning at feeding time, where a young sea otter named Mishka called for her breakfast. Take a listen to the rarely heard sound of sea otter "pup screams." 

Aquarium curator of birds and mammals Traci Belting told me that sea otters are typically very quiet: "If you were to find an entire raft of otters, you could be watching them for an hour and never hear a sound. There could be a hundred animals in the group and you'll never hear anything." When they do vocalize, she says, it is usually between individual otters and may include grumbles and growls, and intermittent sneezes. Pups are less shy, and you can hear Mishka's occasional calls at the aquarium until she grows out of the habit and becomes a much more taciturn adult. 

Special thanks to the Seattle Aquarium for allowing me to visit the aquarium to record their sea otters. These audio recordings are available for use under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License; http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/. Support for these recordings was provided in part by the Acoustic Atlas at Montana State University. 


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