The Luckless Sea Otter


At Point Lobos State Reserve at the northern boundary of the refuge the sea otter may be seen at home: performing its toilet; snoozing on a bed of kelp, with one strand draped over its stomach as a safety belt; diving for shellfish and then opening the shells by pounding them against a flat rock balanced on its chest. The sharp raps of shell on stone can be heard a mile away. This act is one of the rarest phenomena in nature, for besides man, only apes, a Galápagos Islands finch, and the digger wasp are known users of tools.

The sea otter and the abalone existed in natural balance until man’s gross intrusion upset the order of things. Now it is left to man to decide what the new order will be: the otter, the abalone, or—with luck and loving care—some of each.