Sea Otter Poop (Some Stinky Questions Answered)

Sea otters (Enhydra lutris) are a little bit of the oddballs among the otter species and even more among the Mustelidae family.

These cuddly little guys are the largest of the entire weasel family and are the only fully aquatic otters, having no obligatory ties to any terrestrial habitats like most of their relatives. 

Its eccentricity does not stop here as sea otters also poop differently! When talking about the pooping behavior of its otter cousins like the Eurasian otters or river otters, you’d be hard-pressed to find many notable similarities.

For instance, while its otter relatives will be meticulous and territorial in their pooping and in choosing their designated latrines, you’ll find that sea otters are quite the opposite, holding no such qualms on the matter and are overall laidback poopers.  

Interested in finding out why? Come join us here in Floofmania as we clear the air (pun intended) on some stinky questions about our favorite fluffy marine mammals!

What Is Sea Otter Poop Called?

A sea otter’s poop is called a spraint. While some may also use the terms scat or droppings, spraint refers specifically to an otter’s poop. 

Spraints consist primarily of food remains and are often examined by scientists to get an idea of a sea otter’s diet, behavior, and ecological patterns. The analysis of otter spraints is a vital practice for the conservation of these aquatic furballs!

What Does Sea Otter Poop Look Like?

Sea otter poops appear as blobs of amorphous to slightly tubular-shaped feces with pieces of the undigested remains of the sea otter’s favorite foods. Some of these include:

  • Sea urchin 
  • Mussels
  • Abalone
  • Crab
  • Shrimp
  • Snail

Their love for the shell-bearing mollusks means many of their poops will typically have hard, jagged materials studded all over them. Some sea otter poop may even contain rocks and pebbles, which are said to be the droppings of sea otter pups who don’t understand how to feed yet. 

If you come across a sea otter exhibit on your next visit to the aquarium, try spotting the sea otter poops floating about on the water and see if you can guess what their favorite foods are from it!

What Color Is Sea Otter Poop?

The color of sea otter spraints may vary depending on the sea otter’s diet but generally ranges from a yellowish brown to a dark green color

Sea otters who like to eat squid may sometimes have a blackish tinge to their poop, but they should definitely not reach a “tarry” color as this indicates a problem with the sea otter’s health.  

What’s The Consistency and Texture Of Sea Otter Poop?

The blobs of sea otter poop are relatively solid but not hard, and they are a little slimy because of the spraint’s high mucus content.

When a sea otter poops underwater, its poop may sometimes break apart to the point where the shape is no longer discernible as the spraint’s consistency is usually only a hair’s breadth away from becoming loose.

The texture of sea otter poop, on the other hand, comes from its composition of soft food parts and hard remains.

The soft food parts of the spraint will have a mushy, almost liquidy texture while the hard, undigested remains such as shells, byssus, and corals in the sea otter poop will be rough and jagged.

The clashing qualities of these two substances surely make for quite an intriguing poop combination!

Where Do Sea Otters Poop?

The large expanse of the ocean is pretty much the sea otter’s bathroom! 

As these furry creatures spend the majority of their time in the water, they tend to just poop anywhere in the ocean they please and wouldn’t bother to haul out on land to do it. 

For captive otters, you can easily spot their poop floating about on the water’s surface, the trapped air produced during digestion making it buoyant.

Other times, the soft substances from the poop break apart from the hard remains and mix with the water just like in this short clip:

Do Sea Otters Never Poop On Land?

While it is true that sea otters rarely poop on land, it does happen!

Like most marine mammals and unlike their mustelid relatives, sea otters aren’t very selective about where they do their business. When resting or sleeping on land, they would rise to their feet and deposit their poops usually by the edge of their resting place. 

As sea otters like to move around the shore and change position to find the areas with the most comfort, you may find otter spraints scattered randomly around the area. 

These haul-out spots become a little bit of an activity center for sea otters during their few hours of stay in the area and should expect a steady accumulation of spraint deposits in a short amount of time. 

In their fondness for tossing and turning, sea otters may even sometimes lay and sleep on some of these accumulated poop piles, something to think about the next time you get the urge to hug these cuddly little guys!  

How Do Sea Otters Poop?

Pooping for sea otters is a pretty random function and may happen while they’re eating, swimming, or resting on their backs on the water surface.

This makes them quite the silly little multitaskers, either pooping out of nowhere or while engrossed in a particular activity like grooming their fur or plunging to the depths of the ocean.

You can rarely ever tell when a sea otter is about to take a dump as it often looks completely nonchalant about it. In fact, it might even do it while performing a twirl with raised flippers and paws just like in this video!

A sea otter on land, in contrast, will move its little hind feet about and curl its tail slightly upwards before pooping. It may even sniff the poop of other sea otters, a behavior thought to be involved in scent recognition and chemoreception. 

But mostly, pooping on land remains a largely random event for sea otters just as it is in the sea, often expelling their droppings by accident on the shore.

This separates them significantly from their otter relatives like the river otters and the neotropical otters who use their spraints to scent-mark their territories.

Do Sea Otters Poop A Lot?

On average, a sea otter would need to eat 25% of its own body weight every day in order to thrive and survive, which translates to quite a lot of pooping! 

Whenever sea otters haul out on land, it is expected that a large amount of poop will accumulate on their hangout spots.

Their lack of pickiness of where they poop and their propensity for pooping accidentally means that you’d likely find it scattered all over the place, so you better watch your step if you find yourself in one of these places.

Do Sea Otters Poop Often?

Yes, they do. Sea otters have a remarkable digestion time averaging less than 2 hours which means that the food they eat passes through their gut extremely quickly. In terms of pooping frequency, this means that a sea otter may poop several times in a single day!

The sea otter’s fast rate of digestion is mainly influenced by their high metabolic rate and the high water content of their food. The frequency with which they poop is also affected by the amount of stress they’re in.

A study conducted on the simulated transport of captive otters showed that a sea otter pooped twice in the span of 5 hours on an empty stomach. 

Does Sea Otter Poop Smell Very Bad?

An otter spraint has a distinct and special odor, with descriptions of its smell ranging from freshly mown hay to the scent of putrefied fish. Some have even likened the smell to jasmine tea. For sea otters specifically, their poops are objectively quite smelly and fishy given their primarily seafood diet. 

But, it is wise to note that sea otters are different from their otter cousins in that they do not possess any functional anal scent glands. This lack of additional stinky secretion means that sea otter poops may be a little less offensive to the nose than the poops of its relatives. 

Are Sea Otters Clean Animals?

Sea otters are quite the clean freaks actually! The time they spend not eating or sleeping is usually dedicated to obsessively cleaning their coat or fur with their teeth and paws.

The thick underfur of sea otters is invaluable to them as it keeps them warm against the chilly and unforgiving waters. If their fur gets dirty, sea otters will have trouble absorbing the air they need to keep warm and insulated. Remember folks, keep the oceans clean!

Is Sea Otter Poop Good For Anything?

The poop of sea otters is the primary material used for the analysis of the hormones and overall health of sea otters.

Through their poops, animal care specialists are able to examine the levels of reproductive hormones of sea otters and acquire an insight into their cycles and stress levels which will aid in the continued survival of the species.

Sea otters are absolutely vital in maintaining the balance in our kelp forest ecosystem as they keep the population of sea urchins in check, which are spiny echinoderms known to be voracious kelp grazers. Without sea otters, we will face massive trouble in maintaining the integrity of community structures and our biosphere as a whole.  

Leave a Comment