Are Sea Otters Smelly? (What Do They Smell Like?)

The cute, cuddly sea otter (Enhydra lutris) is known for its stuffed toy looks but also infamous for its smell. There are a lot of stories that depict the sea otter as having a disgusting smell.

On the other hand, there are people who also say that their odor is similar to fresh flowers. Which of these stories is true?

Do sea otters really smell bad? How can their odor be described? How important is this odor to the sea otter’s behavior and survival skills? And lastly, Does the poop of the sea otter really stink? This will be a smelly article—that’s for sure.

Join Floofmania in discovering all relevant information about the sea otter’s odor, its uses, and how it affects the life of this cute mustelid. We promise this will be very interesting. Let’s get started! 

Do Sea Otters Have A Smell?

Sea otters have a distinct odor that makes them stand out from the crowd. It is a bit tough to describe its smell but we’ll try to present all the descriptions people can come up with—good and otherwise.

Let us start by talking about the sea otter’s scent glands—or the lack of them. Sea otters do not have scent glands. Unlike their relatives in land and freshwater habitats, these aquatic animals do not rely very much on odor when it comes to their socialization and individual behaviors.

Fun Fact: Don’t be misled to think that sea otters have a poor sense of smell. In fact, their sense of smell is so sharp that they can easily distinguish bad or contaminated food from nutritious foods just by smelling them.

What Do Sea Otters Really Smell Like?

Scientists say that the mustelid smell like a bouquet of violets. It may sound a bit weird but the experts have an explanation for this. The violet-like scent most people used in describing the animal’s scent is said to be due to the sea otter’s seafood diet

Take note that the actual scent of sea otters is distinct to them. You cannot compare it with flowers or even with other mustelids. Moreover, there’s no definite description of their odor. Let’s take a closer look at the sea otter’s diet.

The sea otter’s diet mainly consists of the following:

  • Abalone
  • Clams
  • Mussels
  • Crabs
  • Sea urchins
  • Scallops
  • Barnacles
  • Octopus 
  • Squid
  • Worms
  • Sea vegetation on occasion

Just by looking at their food list, you can assume that sea otters will have a different and lingering distinct smell. Just imagine placing all that seafood in a blender and then smelling the finished product. That’s what sea otters probably smell and not a bouquet of violets. You are what you eat, after all. 

Do Sea Otters Smell Like Fish?

It is safe to say that sea otters do not smell like fish. Although some northern sea otters are said to feed on fish, their diet consists mainly of invertebrates and crustaceans. The groups of sea otters living in the southern parts of North America do not have fish on their menu.

Do Sea Otter Mark The Territories With Smell?

Sea otters do not mark their territories. Unlike their river-residing relatives, sea otters are not in any way, territorial animals. In addition, these mustelids do not have scent glands to use in marking. 

Sea otters are social animals. They like hanging around with their peers and playing with them. A group of sea otters is called a raft and can consist of up to 100+ members. These animals are so friendly with each other that seeing them fight is a very rare occurrence.

The social skills of sea otters are well-evolved. They have a strong sense of family attachment and oftentimes welcome newcomers that join their group. Perhaps we can say that the sea otters’ motto is “the more the merrier.”

There’s truly no need for scent marking for these animals—just aquatic partying!

Will Sea Otters Use Smell In Finding A Mate?

Sea otters do not use their sense of smell when finding their mates. These highly social mustelids usually find their mates within the raft they belong in. The socialization of these animals starts with their playfulness and hanging around with each other.

This playfulness is somewhat of a form of preparation for the sea otters’ mating behavior.

The playful behavior is a way for the animals to be familiar with other members of their group. As sea otters reach the age of sexual maturity (2 years for females and 5 years for males), finding a pair to procreate is fairly easy.

It’s pretty safe to say that sea otters do not need their noses when finding a mate. 

Do Sea Otters Have Scent Glands?

As mentioned above, sea otters do not have scent glands. Of all the otter species, the sea otter has evolved and lost its somewhat useless scent glands along the way.

The mustelid spends most of its time in an aquatic environment. There’s very little use for marking in its habitat anyway.

Does Sea Otter Poop Smell Bad?

Unlike their relatives’ excrement, the sea otter’s poop does not smell that bad. The absence of functional anal scent glands makes its poop smell less musky.

However, do not forget about the “seafood blender” mentioned above. The sea otter’s poop still smells weird, if not offensive. You’d still want to avoid coming in contact with its poop during your snorkeling sessions. 

Author: Jomvie Reyes

Jomvie has been a writer for over 10 years and animals and wildlife are among his favorite topics. Learning and writing about the vast and diverse wildlife from all over the world, is more of a hobby than a job for him. Jomvie loves to watch and observe these remarkable species up close and personal.

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