insights from the ultimate cruising team

Check out these CUTE furry creatures in ALASKA

One of the most fascinating and endearing creatures you’ll likely see during a cruise to Alaska is the otter. As well as being undeniably cute, these little critters are pretty savvy at surviving, with a few tricks up their sleeve for thriving in this chilly part of the world.

A member of the weasel family, there are 13 species in total ranging from the small-clawed otter to the giant otter, and a mix of river and sea otters. Today we’ve got some fun facts about otters:

• Otters have a pretty good appetite! Each day they consume 25% of their body weight. On the menu is a selection of sea urchins, clams, mussels and crabs.

• When searching for food, sea otters can hold their breath for five minutes – plenty of time to dive down and dig up some clams.

• You may wonder how otters would go about getting into clam shells? They use rocks to crack them open.

• Otters have loose skin in their armpits – a very handy storage facility for rocks and food! The otter equivalent of a handbag!

• Living in Alaska, you’d think they would have a bit of extra body fat to keep them warm. Incorrect. Unlike most marine mammals, they don’t have a layer of blubber. They do, however, have the thickest fur of any animal – as many as a million hairs per square inch! It’s made up of two layers – the undercoat and then the longer hairs that we can see. The layers trap air next to the otter’s skin which helps keep it warm and dry, as well as helping with buoyancy.

• Baby otters (pups) will stay with their mother until around 6 months of age. They have a dense fur which traps so much air it’s impossible for them to swim underwater so the mother will leave her baby floating, often wrapped in kelp, while she finds food.

• Babies will curl up on their mother’s chest while she floats of her back to sleep. When sleeping, otters will wrap themselves in seaweed and float together as a group. This group of otters is called a raft, whilst a group of otters on land is generally known as a romp.

• Otters are a chatty lot – especially giant otters. Studies have shown they have several distinct noises they make for different situations including danger warnings and to tell the other otters to change direction. Pups also have their own distinct calls.

• They also have very distinct smelling faeces! Known as “spraint”, otter excrement has been described as smelling like freshly mown hay, reminiscent of jasmine tea with a touch of putrified fish. It’s understood otters can tell who has been there as well as the sex, age and reproductive status of the culprit from just a quick whiff!

• Otters love to play. Although they spend the majority of their time sleeping and eating, they’ve also been known to make slides along river banks and have a grand old time!

• Although they are very cute to look at, their behaviour doesn’t always match. Otters can give a nasty bite and, when mating, the male otters will bite the female’s face to stop her from escaping.

• Otters were once heavily hunted for their fur, many to the point of near extinction. Regulations have been put in place to protect them, however otters are still at risk from pollution, pesticides and loss of habitat. The sea otter is listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List.

With 90% of all sea otters living on the coast of Alaska, you’ve got a good chance of spotting them during an Alaskan cruise. If you’re cruising on smaller ships you’re more likely to be able to see them closer as the smaller ships can get into places the larger ships can’t. They also have more flexibility to manoeuver if the experts spot something worth taking a closer look at.

For more information on cruises in Alaska, have a chat to one of our Ultimate Cruising experts. There are many choices for cruising Alaska so talk to them about the various cruise lines, ports of call and times to travel. You can request a call here.