Sea otters

Meet our northern sea otters:
Mishka and Sekiu

Say hello to our otters: females Mishka and Sekiu. Learn a bit about them below, and keep scrolling to discover fascinating facts about these charming, outgoing, intelligent mammals. Then come see the dynamic duo in action on your next visit to the Aquarium!

Mishka, a brown colored northern sea otter, on her back in the water lifting her front paws up against her chin.

Pronounced MEESH-kah

Mishka joined us in January 2015, after being caught in a fishing net as a young pup, then being rescued and rehabilitated by the Alaska SeaLife Center and deemed non-releasable by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Sekiu, a brown colored northern sea otter, floating on her back looking towards the camera.

Pronounced SEE-cue

Sekiu was born right here at the Seattle Aquarium on January 14, 2012! Her mother was Aniak, who passed away under our care in June 2021, and her father was Adaa, who passed away under our care in February 2022 . Sekiu was the 11th pup to be successfully born at the Aquarium, and the last sea otter born in a zoological facility in the United States (see our FAQ for more details). After being transferred to the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium in 2017 to be a companion for their sole female at the time, she returned to us in December 2021. 

Three sea otters floating on the water, laying on their backs close to each other.

Home, sweet home

In the wild, most northern sea otters live in rocky coastal habitats near points of land where some of the areas are protected from wind and waves. In the world of sea otter real estate, a nearby kelp bed is an added bonus!

Two wild sea otters floating on their backs in the ocean.

Making a (slow) comeback

Hundreds of thousands of sea otters once lived along most of the coastal North Pacific. That was before fur traders hunted them for their thick, luxurious pelts in the late 1800s. By the year 1900, sea otters were nearly extinct: less than 2,000 remained. The international Fur Seal Treaty of 1911 stopped further exploitation of sea otters, as did the 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act. Their numbers are now on the rise, but nowhere near their previous levels.


Wanna hold hands?

In the wild, sea otters sometimes “hold hands”—or, more accurately, paws—while sleeping so they don’t drift away from their raft (the term for a group of resting sea otters). While charming to think about, this paw holding doesn’t actually happen that frequently. Large rafts of sea otters in the wild are more likely to stay together by watching each other, listening for each other, and casual body contact—then adjusting movements of their tails and rear flippers to maintain proximity. Paw holding is most likely a learned behavior specific to certain individual sea otters, who may find it comforting! Awwww.


Sea otter FAQs
What's with all the grooming?
Who’s who? Sea otters vs. river otters
Why doesn’t the seattle aquarium have a sea otter breeding program anymore?
Looking for more information? 

Other Mammals