137            Sea Otter

                           ENHYDRA MARINA.--ERXLEBEN.
                                [Enhydra lutris]

                                   SEA OTTER.

                             PLATE CXXXVII.--MALE.

     E. perelongata, cauda depressa, corporis partem quartam aequante, pedibus
posticis curtis, istis Phocarum similibus, colore castaneo vel nigro, vellere
mollissimo; Lutra Canadensis duplo major.


     Body, very much elongated; tail, depressed, and one fourth the length of
the body; hind-feet, short, and resembling those of the seal; colour, chestnut
brown or black; twice the size of the common Otter; fur, exceedingly fine.


     SEA BEAVER.  Krascheninikoff, Hist. Kamsk. (Grieve's Trans.), p. 131.
       Ann. 1764
     MUSTELA LUTRIS.  Schreber, Saugethiere, p. 465, fig. t. 128.
     LUTRA MARINA.  Erxleben, Syst.  Ann. 1777.
     LUTRA MARINA.  Steller, Nov. Com. Petrop., vol. ii. p. 267, t. 16.
     SEA OTTER.  Cook's Third Voyage, vol. ii. p. 295.  Ann. 1784.
     SEA OTTER.  Pennant's Arctic Zoology, vol. i. p. 88.  Ann. 1784.
     LUTRA STELLERI.  Lesson, Manual, pp. 156, 423.
     SEA OTTER.  Meares, Voyage, pp. 241, 260.  Ann. 1790.
     SEA OTTER.  Menzies, Philos. Trans., p. 385.  Ann. 1796.
     ENHYDRA MARINA.  Fleming, Phil. Zool., vol. ii. p. 187.  Ann. 1822.
     ENYDRIS STELLERI.  Fischer, Synopsis, p. 228.
     LUTRA MARINA.  Harlan, Fauna, p. 72.
     THE SEA OTTER.  Godman's Nat. Hist., vol. i. p. 228.
     ENYDRIS MARINA.  Licht., Darstellung neuer oder wenig bekannter
       Saugethiere Berlin, 1827-1834.  Tafel xlix.
     LUTRA (ENHYDRA) MARINA.  Rich., Fauna Boreali Americana, p. 59.


     Head, small in proportion to the size of the body; ears, short, conical,
and covered with hair; eyes, rather large; lips, thick; mouth, wide, and
furnished with strong and rather large teeth; fore-feet, webbed nearly to the
nails, and much like those of the common Otter, five claws on each.  Hind-legs
and thighs, short, and better adapted for swimming than in other mammals except
the seals; hind-feet, flat and webbed, the toes being connected by a strong,
granulated membrane, with a skin skirting the outward toe; all the webs of the
feet are thickly clothed with glossy hairs about a line in length.
     One of the specimens referred to by Mr. MENZIES (the account of which is
published in the Philosophical Transactions) measured eight inches across the
hind-foot; the tongue was four inches long and rounded at the end, with a slight
fissure, giving the tip a bifid appearance.
     The tail is short, broad, depressed, and pointed at the end; the hair both
on the body and tail is of two kinds--the longer hairs are silky, glossy, and
not very numerous, the fur or shorter hair exceedingly soft and fine.


     The cheeks generally present a cast of grayish or silvery colour, which
extends along the sides and under the throat; there is a lightish circle around
the eye; top of the head, dark brown; the remainder of the body (above and
beneath) is deep glossy brownish-black.
     There is a considerable variety of shades in different specimens, some
being much lighter than others.  The longer hairs intermixed with the fur are in
the best skins black and shining.  In some individuals the fur about the ears,
nose, and eyes is either brown or light coloured; the young are sometimes very
light in colour, with white about the nose, eyes, and forehead.
     The fur of the young is not equal in fineness to that of the adult.


                                                       Feet.     Inches.

       Length from point of nose to root of tail,  .  .  4          2
       Length of tail,  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  1          0

     Young, about two years old.                       Feet.     Inches.

       Length from end of nose to root of tail, .  .  .  3          0
       Length of tail,  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  0          7 1/2
       Width of head between the ears, .  .  .  .  .  .  0          4
       Height of ear,.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  0            3/4
       From elbow of fore-leg to end of nail,.  .  .  .  0          4 1/2
       Length of hind-foot from heel to end of nail,  .  0          6 1/4
       Length of fore toe, .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  0            1/4
       Length of inner hind-toe, .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  0          1
       Length of outer hind-toe, .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  0          3
       Circumference of the head, behind the ears, .  .  0         10 1/4
       Circumference of body around the breast, .  .  .  1          5
       Circumference of body around the loins,  .  .  .  1         10


     Next to the seals the Sea Otter may be ranked as an inhabitant of the great
deep:  it is at home in the salt waves of the ocean, frequently goes some
distance from the "dull tame shore," and is sometimes hunted in sail-boats by
the men who live by catching it, even out of sight of land.
     But although capable of living almost at sea, this animal chiefly resorts
to bays, the neighbourhood of islands near the coast, and tide-water rivers,
where it can not only find plenty of food, but shelter or conceal itself as
occasion requires.
     It is a timid and shy creature, much disconcerted at the approach of
danger, and when shot at, if missed, rarely allows the gunner a second chance to
kill it.
     Hunting the Sea Otter was formerly a favourite pursuit with the few sailors
or stray Americans that lived on the shores of the Bay of San Francisco, but the
more attractive search for gold drew them off to the mines when SUTTER's
mill-race had revealed the glittering riches intermixed with its black sands.
One of the shallops formerly used for catching the Sea Otter was observed by J.
W. AUDUBON at Stockton, and is thus described by him:  The boat was about
twenty-eight feet long and eight feet broad, clinker built, and sharp at both
ends like a whale-boat, which she may in fact have originally been, rigged with
two lug sails, and looked like a fast craft.  Whilst examining her the captain
and owner came up to enquire whether he did not want to send some freight to
Hawkins' Bar, but on finding that was not the object of his scrutiny, gave him
the following account of the manner of hunting the Otter.
     The boat was manned with four or five hands and a gunner, and sailed about
all the bays, and to the islands even thirty or forty miles from the coast, and
sometimes north or south three or four hundred miles in quest of these animals.
On seeing an Otter the boat was steered quietly for it, sail being taken in to
lessen her speed so as to approach gently and without alarming the game.  When
within short gun-shot, the marksman fires, the men spring to the oars, and the
poor Otter is harpooned before it sinks by the bowsman.  Occasionally the
animals are sailed up to while they are basking on the banks, and they are
sometimes caught in seines.  The man who gave this information stated that he
had known five Otters to be shot and captured in a day, and he had obtained
forty dollars apiece for their skins.  At the time J. W. AUDUBON was in
California he was asked a hundred dollars for a Sea Otter skin, which high price
he attributed to the gold discoveries.
     Only one of these Otters was seen by J. W. AUDUBON whilst in California:
it was in the San Joaquin river, where the bulrushes grew thickly on the banks
all about.  The party were almost startled at the sudden appearance of one,
which climbed on to a drift log about a hundred yards above them.  Three rifle
balls were sent in an instant towards the unsuspecting creature, one of which
striking near it, the alarmed animal slid into the water and sunk without
leaving, so far as they could see, a single ripple.  It remained below the
surface for about a minute, and on coming up raised its head high above the
water, and having seen nothing to frighten it, as they judged, began fishing.
Its dives were made so gently that it was evidently as much at its ease in the
water as a Grebe, and it frequently remained under the surface as long at least
as the great northern diver or loon.  They watched its movements some time, but
could not see that it took a fish, although it dived eight or ten times.  On
firing another shot the Otter appeared much frightened (possibly having been
touched) and swimming rapidly, without diving, to the opposite shore,
disappeared in the rushes, and they did not see it again.
     In the accounts of this species given by various authors we find little
respecting its habits, and it is much to be regretted that so remarkable an
animal should be yet without a full "biography."
     Sir JOHN RICHARDSON, who gives an excellent description of its fur from one
who was engaged in the trade, says, "It seems to have more the manners of a seal
than of the land Otter.  It frequents rocks washed by the sea, and brings forth
on land, but resides mostly in the water, and is occasionally seen very remote
from the shore."
     GODMAN states that "its food is various, but principally cuttle-fish,
lobsters, and other fish.  The Sea Otter, like most other animals which are
plentifully supplied with food, is entirely harmless and inoffensive in its
manners, and might be charged with stupidity, according to a common mode of
judging animals, as it neither offers to defend itself nor to injure those who
attack it.  But as it runs very swiftly and swims with equal celerity it
frequently escapes, and after having gone some distance turns back to look at
its pursuers.  In doing this it holds a fore-paw over its eyes, much in the
manner we see done by persons who in a strong sunshine are desirous to observe a
distant object accurately.  It has been inferred that the sight of this animal
is imperfect; its sense of smelling, however, is said to be very acute."
     The latter part of the above paragraph at least, may be taken as a small
specimen of the fabulous tales believed in olden times about animals of which
little that was true had been learned.
     Dr. GODMAN relates farther that the female Sea Otter brings forth on land
after a pregnancy of eight or nine months, and but one at a birth, and states
that the extreme tenderness and attachment she displays for her young are much
celebrated.  According to his account the flesh is eaten by the hunters, but
while it is represented by some as being tender, juicy, and flavoured like young
lamb, by others it is declared to be hard, insipid, and tough as leather.  We
advise such of our readers as may wish to decide which of these statements is
correct, and who may be so fortunate as to possess the means and leisure, to go
to California and taste the animal--provided they can catch or kill one.
     We will conclude our very meagre account of the habits of the Sea Otter by
quoting the following most sensible remarks from Sir JOHN RICHARDSON, given in a
note in the Fauna Boreali Americana, p. 60:  "Not having been on the coasts
where the Sea Otter is produced, I can add nothing to its history from my own
observation, and I have preferred taking the description of the fur from one who
was engaged in the trade, to extracting a scientific account of the animal from
systematic works, which are in the hands of every naturalist."

                           GEOGRAPHICAL DISTRIBUTION.

     The Sea Otter inhabits the waters which bound the northern parts of America
and Asia, and separate those continents from each other, viz. the North Pacific
Ocean and the various seas and bays which exist off either shore from
Kamtschatka to the Yellow Sea on the Asiatic side, and from Allaska to
California on the American.

                                GENERAL REMARKS.

     Although this animal has been known and hunted for more than a century, and
innumerable skins of it have been carried to China (where they formerly brought
a very high price), as well as to some parts of Europe, yet no good specimens,
and but few perfect skulls of it, exist in any museum or private collection.
The difference between the dentition of the young and the adult, being in
consequence unknown, has misled many naturalists, and caused difficulties in the
formation of the genus.
     LINNAEUS, strangely enough, placed it among the martens (Mustela);
ERXLEBEN, in the genus Lutra; FLEMING established for it a new genus (Enhydra);
FISCHER in his synopsis endeavoured to bring this to the Greek (Enydris), which
was also applied to it by LICHTENSTEIN.
     The best generic descriptions of the Sea Otter that we have seen are those
of the last named author, who has given two plates representing the skull and
the teeth; the latter however were deficient in number, owing to the fact of his
specimen being a young animal with its dentition incomplete.  In the
Philosophical Transactions (1796, No. 17) we have a description of the anatomy
of this animal by EVERARD HOME and ARCHIBALD MENZIES, which gives a tolerable
idea of its structure.
     There are only two authors, so far as we are aware, who have given reliable
accounts of the habits of the Sea Otter--STELLER and COOK.  The information
published by the former is contained in Nov. Com. Acad. Petropolit., vol. ii. p.
267, ann. 1751; the latter gives an account of the animal in his Third Voyage,
vol. ii. p. 295.