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Public Service Announcement: Please Don’t Poke the Wildlife

posted: 10/07/15
by: Danny Clemens
sea otter floating
Jeff Foott/DCL

A video spreading across the Internet like wildfire seems innocent enough: as a boat idles in the serene Alaska waters, an adorable sea otter floats by leisurely on its back. As the critter nears the boat, a passenger leans out and pokes the otter's stomach, sending the surprised animal flailing into the water and prompting a chorus of joyful chortles from onlookers.

Since going viral, the video has elicited outrage from conservationists, who point out that poking the otter is actually a violation of federal law. The animal is protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which forbids the harassment, hunting, capture, or kill of marine mammals.

Now, even the United States Fish & Wildlife Service has come out swinging, calling the video a "real problem" and explaining in a news release why it's inappropriate to poke otters:

"Not equipped with blubber like whales and seals, sea otters must rely on their fur coat and their super-high metabolic rate to stay warm. The average adult sea otter has to actively hunt and eat 20 to 30 percent of its body mass in food each day just to meet its energy requirements. That's why it's incredibly important for otters to conserve their energy - their survival depends on it - so they are often seen resting on their backs on the water's surface."

Throughout the nineteenth century, the sea otter was hunted nearly to extinction. Fur traders valued the animal for its luxuriously thick pelt, which was a highly valued commodity. Thanks to concerted conservation efforts throughout the twentieth century, populations began to slowly rebound, although the IUCN still considers the sea otter to be endangered due to lingering threats from oil spills and commercial fisheries.

The sea otter has been through quite enough. Let it (and other animals) live in peace.

Learn more about otters:

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