Return of the Sea Otter

Return of the Sea Otter: The Story of the Animal that Evaded Extinction on the Pacific Coast

In his newest book about rare wildlife, Todd McLeish journeys along the Pacific Coast from California to Alaska to track the status, health, habits, personality, and viability of sea otters – the appealing animals unique to the Pacific that were hunted to near extinction in the 18th and 19th centuries. Todd shares stories of his adventures and outlines the natural history of these adorable marine mammals – often seen floating on their backs and holding hands – that play a vital role in maintaining the health of the kelp forest ecosystem.

Sea otters have an amazing array of characteristics that make them especially appealing to wildlife lovers everywhere. They have the thickest fur of any animal on earth; they eat 30 percent of their weight in food every day; they carry their pups around on their bellies for months at a time; and as one of the few mammals to use tools, they use their bellies like a picnic table as they crack open shellfish using rocks found on the seafloor. Their fluffy appearance and engaging antics make them one of the most popular animals on Earth.

During his research on sea otters, Todd joined biologists as they captured otters for study in California, rehabilitated baby otters for release into the wild in Alaska, monitored their feeding habits in Washington, sailed coastal British Columbia to survey otter populations, scuba dived with otters in Monterey Bay, and met with fishermen and Native Alaskans unhappy with the impact the animals were having on their livelihoods. Combined with the history of the fur trade, these adventures make Return of the Sea Otter a fun and exciting read.


What they’re saying

“Todd McLeish does a masterful job of weaving together conservation politics with intriguing details of the sea otter’s irreplaceable role in the nearshore ecosystem. At once heartbreaking and hopeful, I was captivated by this story!”

– Leigh Calvez, author of The Hidden Lives of Owls


“A cautiously hopeful and well-researched tribute to an animal easy for most humans to love.”

Kirkus Reviews


Beautifully written, entertaining, and engaging, McLeish’s tale of the sea otter will make you love this incredible animal and the ocean even more, and will leave you with hope that our efforts to heal our stressed ocean can and will make a difference.”

—Joseph K. Gaydos, coauthor of The Salish Sea


“McLeish examines all sides of the ecology of the sea otter in this highly entertaining look at an apex predator…A healthy sea-otter population is crucial for a healthy Pacific-coast ecosystem, and the author’s enthusiasm for the world’s cutest keystone species makes believers of all of us.”



“McLeish’s book is more than lovely and informative writing about otter life on the Pacific coast–it’s a call to action.”

– Shelf Awareness