Eye-to-eye contact opportunities abound.
Eye-to-eye contact opportunities abound. (Vern Fisher, Herald Archive)

There is much to be admired in the sea otter. Nearly hunted to extinction, the creatures mounted a comeback off the shores of the Central Coast and now number about 2,700. They scavenge the sea floor, using "pockets" in their coats to stash prey during a dive. They always return to the surface to dine. They use their chest as a table and know enough to smack open a clam with a rock. And they're fun to watch. Just don't get too close.

TO VIEW THE OTTERS IN THEIR NATURAL HABITAT, VISIT THESE SPOTS:

Monterey: Check the kelp beds off Cannery Row, but don't confuse the bobbing kelp bulbs for otters.

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve: Whalers Cove might have them, but keep a keen eye out along the trail between Weston Beach and Sea Lion Point.

A sea otter swims underwater at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
A sea otter swims underwater at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. (Vern Fisher, Herald Archive)

Moss Landing: (This will be our little secret.) Check out the North Harbor area at Moss Landing by following Jetty Road for an up-close experience with sea otters. A raft of them can usually be found lolling about in the protected waters and, if you're lucky, you might be able to watch them galoomph about on dry land. Keep your distance; they may be cute as kittens, but they are wild animals.