All seals and sea lions belong to a group of amphibious mammals in the suborder Pinnipedia, which is why they’re collectively called pinnipeds. The group includes 34 species of seal and sea lion, plus the Arctic-dwelling walrus. The word “pinniped” comes from the Latin pinna, meaning “fin,” “wing,” or “feather” and pedis meaning “foot.” In other words, a fin-footed animal, which is just what they are! We regularly see four species of pinniped in the Salish Sea: harbour seals, elephant seals, and Steller and California sea lions.
All otters are members of the weasel, or Mustelidae, family, which also includes mink, martens, ferrets, wolverines and badgers. Mustelids are all carnivores and have long, tube-shaped bodies, short legs and a strong thick neck with a small head. We see two species of otter on our tours. River otters are a common sight along coastlines, on docks and in harbours. Sea otters are rare in the Salish Sea and not often seen from shore. We see a handful of individuals on our tours every year. One sea otter nicknamed “Ollie” has been living at Race Rocks Ecological Reserve for the last few years!