All I know is, life on earth is evil. - Justine, Melancholia
Sea otters - they're the most adorable little guys in the ocean. If you drive up the scenic Pacific Coast Highway here in California you can see them frolicking in the surf, just chilling out and being cute and having the best time. And if you're lucky maybe you'll get to see them rape a baby seal to death.
Yeah. So when a juvenile male sea otter has a hard time finding a mate, it may turn to baby seals, raping them and drowning them in the act. Between 2000 and 2002 employees of the California Department of Fish and Game documented at least 19 incidents, and published this disturbing first hand account in the pages of the journal Aquatic Mammals:
A weaned harbor seal pup was resting onshore when an untagged male sea otter approached it, grasped it with its teeth and forepaws, bit it on the nose, and flipped it over. The harbor seal moved toward the water with the sea otter following closely. Once in the water, the sea otter gripped the harbor seal’s head with its forepaws and repeatedly bit it on the nose, causing a deep laceration. The sea otter and pup rolled violently in the water for approximately 15 min, while the pup struggled to free itself from the sea otter’s grasp. Finally, the sea otter positioned itself dorsal to the pup’s smaller body while grasping it by the head and holding it underwater in a position typical of mating sea otters. As the sea otter thrust his pelvis, his penis was extruded and intromission was observed. At 105 min into the encounter, the sea otter released the pup, now dead, and began grooming.
Oof, that's tough. What's even tougher is that some of the otters would come back and keep violating the corpses FOR UP TO SEVEN DAYS. Rapists, murderers and necrophiliacs!
Get this: this kind of behavior isn't actually that far off from normal sea otter mating. The male sea otter tends to just force himself on female sea otters, who will resist like the dickens. The male with bite and scratch her, and sometimes hold her head underwater. Every now and again the female is killed in the mating process.
The good news? This may be somewhat isolated to Monterey Bay. According to Discover News:
It’s a situation that may have been exacerbated by a change in the demographics of Monterey Bay’s sea otters. For reasons that are still far from clear, overall mortality rate in the otter population is increasing, and disproportionately affecting females. As a consequence, an even greater number of mature males are denied mating opportunities, possibly causing sexual encounters to be more aggressive when they do occur. And those males that remain denied an opportunity to mate take out their frustrations on the hapless young harbor seals, an interspecies interaction that has been known to take place, albeit with less dramatic consequences, in other marine mammals.
It seems pretty certain that whatever is impacting the demographics of sea otters in the Monterey Bay, it's humanity's fault. This week we turned the North Pole into a lake, and it's possible we've also turned sea otters into rapist murdering necrophiliacs.
Thanks to Lindsay Maher for ruining my day with this information.