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You Otter Know

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2023 dealt some early blows in my life outside of work. I’m consequently behind on everything, and the stress about my growing to do list is ever present.

I will get to that list soon. (I apologize if you’re waiting on an email response or piece of research from me: it’s coming!) Before I tackle all the daunting things waiting for me, though, I want to pause and reset.

This piece has absolutely nothing to do with software development or technology; it is me writing something that is just for fun to shake off the cobwebs and find some joy.

Let’s talk about otters.

sea otter floating in water

There are 13 species of otters. You can find them on every continent except Australia and Antarctica. (I am sad there are no otters (“notters”) for our friends down under. Luckily they have koalas to help make up for it.) Australia is missing out because otters are excellent. Here’s why.

Sea otters hold hands. Perhaps you are one of the 22 million people who have already watched these otters hold hands at the Vancouver Aquarium and this is old news. But we’re starting here anyway because it’s a delightful fact. Sea otters gather in groups called a raft, with sometimes hundreds of otters in a raft. Sea otters are marine mammals and live almost their entire lives in water. When they sleep they need to ensure they don’t drift away from the raft; sometimes they can use kelp forests as an anchor, but they also will hold on to each other. It’s adorable.

They might be charming, but they can be aggressive and territorial AF. (Ask the guy who got attacked by a pack of otters in Singapore for his thoughts on this.) Otters are carnivores. Look at these teeth.

yawning sea otter with big teeth

That’s the mouth of a hunter that can mess a fish up. (Or a shellfish. Sea urchin. Frog. Small mammal. Bird.) And on top of that some species of adult otters can grow up to 90 pounds. Otters are formidable predators.

But mouths aren’t the only hunting tool at their disposal. Sea otters are one of the few animals documented as able to use tools. Otters can use rocks to help them crack open shellfish. They even have favorite rocks.

And where might a sea otter store said favorite rock? In their pockets. That’s right. Pockets. Sea otters have flaps of skin between their arms and their bodies that can serve as pockets, where they can store things like their favorite rocks or a snack for later.

With their hand holding and tool use and pocket appreciation, sea otters generally garner more attention than river otters. (Case in point: there’s a Sea Otter Awareness Week every September, but nothing out there celebrating the lowly river otter.) But there’s one really important thing I need to you know about river otters.

River otters spend less time in water than sea otters and will have a den along the riverbanks. One name for an otter den is a holt but the far superior name is a couch. This means you could get a decorative pillow of an otter and turn your own couch into a couch.

Credits: Shout out to Cassidy Williams, who inspired the concept of this piece with her amazing Moose Facts.

Images: licensed from

Otter Resources:


  1. Wait, otters can grow up to 90 lbs?! I underestimated that significantly. I appreciate knowing this…

  2. A couple of years ago we had a pair of river otters take up residence in a local pond. It was really cool to go there and catch glimpses of them hunting and swimming around:

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