Top 7 Sea Otter Book Recommendations

  1. Serendipity: An Ecologist’s Quest to Understand Nature by James Estes, 2016, University of California Press. The author is one of the giants of modern ecology who began as a young graduate student sent to the Aleutian Islands to study sea otters. This clearly written book tells the story of his life as a naturalist and the concepts that have driven his interest in researching the ecological role of top-level predators such as sea otters. Part memoir, part natural history, and deeply inquisitive, Serendipity entertains and informs as it raises thoughtful questions about our relationship with the natural world.

  2. Return of the Sea Otter: The Story of the Animal That Evaded Extinction on the Pacific Coast by Todd McLeish, 2018, Sasquatch Books. McLeish writes as a reporter, traveling from California to Alaska to track the status, health, habits, personality, and viability of sea otters, and reveals how conservationists brought them back from the brink of extinction. A good general read.

  3. Sea Otters and the China Trade by Robert Kingery Buell and Charlotte Skladal, 1968.David McKay Company, Inc.    This is an account of what part the West Coast sea otter played in the development of the area, and in the growth of the important trade with China during the hundred years between 1741 and 1841. The courage, persistence, and ruthless purpose of the men of different nationalities who struggled to make fortunes for themselves, and get control of new territory for their governments is related.

  4. The Death and Life of Monterey Bay: A Story of Revival by Stephen R. Palumbi and Carolyn Sotka, 2011, Shearwater Press/Island Books. Anyone who has ever stood on the shores of Monterey Bay, watching the rolling ocean waves and frolicking otters, knows it is a unique place. But even residents on this idyllic California coast may not realize its full history. A central character in the story revival of the bay is the sea otter.  But the story is much deeper than just sea otters.

  5. Sea Otters of Haida Gwaii: Icons in Human – Ocean Relations by N.A. Sloan and Lyle Dick, 2012, Archipelago Management Board/Haida Gwaii Museum. provides an historical overview of sea otter populations in Haida Gwaii, their environmental context, the crucial role that human intervention has played in their decline and a discussion of the impacts of their possible reintroduction to the region.

  6. Abalone: The Remarkable History and Uncertain Future of California’s Iconic Shellfish by Ann Vileisis, 2020, Oregon State University Press. While not strictly about sea otters, they are present throughout the story. This beautifully written book is the first and only comprehensive history of these once abundant but now tragically imperiled shellfish. It recounts, among other things, the fierce disputes between sport and commercial divers, whose ire was often directed at the population of sea otters along the central California coast.

  7. Sea Otters: A History by Richard Ravalli, 2018, University of Nebraska Press. More than any other nonhuman species, it was the sea otter that defined the world’s largest oceanscape prior to the California gold rush. The book synthesizes the sea otter’s complex history of interaction with humans by drawing on new histories of the species that consider international and global factors beyond the fur trade, including sea mammal conservation, Cold War nuclear testing, and environmental tourism. Examining sea otters in a Pacific World context, Ravalli weaves together the story of imperial ambition, greed, and an iconic sea mammal that left a determinative imprint on the modern world.