Question Sheet: Sea Otters, Kelp, and Killer Whales


Before reading:

  1. Describe a sea otter. 
  2. Where do sea otters live? 
  3. What kinds of other animals share the sea otters’ habitat? 
  4. What might threaten sea otters?

During reading:

  1. What is causing the rapid loss of sea otters in Alaska? 
  2. What caused the loss of sea otters along the coasts of Washington State and Oregon? 
  3. Why have sea otters been compared to teddy bears? 
  4. How do the otters keep warm? 
  5. What is kelp and why is it important? 
  6. What do sea otters eat? 
  7. Explain how the otter population in Washington has changed from 1970 to now.

After reading:

  1. What other animals might be considered “keystone species”? Why? 
  2. Why don’t scientists kill sea urchins to help maintain the kelp population? 
  3. Why isn’t the sea otter population now growing as fast as it once was in Washington? 
  4. Imagine that you are a marine biologist. What questions would you want to answer about sea otters? Why do you find those questions interesting? 
  5. Why do you think sea otters have done better in Washington State than in other areas, such as Oregon and Northern Mexico, where the animals once lived? 
  6. Look in the library and on the Internet to learn what animals live in a kelp forest.


  1. Imagine that you are applying for money to study sea otters. Write a letter explaining why an organization should give you money for your work. What would you hope to find out? Where would you go? What would you do? 
  2. Imagine that you are on a hunting ship long ago when there were many sea otters. Describe your experience. Look for historical information that might make your narrative more interesting.


  1. Approximately how much have sea otter populations increased from 1969-70 to today? Express the amount as a multiple of the imported population and as a percentage. 
  2. If you ate 25 percent of your body weight daily, as otters do, how many quarter-pound hamburgers would you eat every day? How many burgers do you think you would eat in a day, if that was your only food? What percentage of your weight would those burgers represent?