Sea otters are a Vancouver Island keystone species. Without the otters to keep sea urchin populations under control, kelp forests, one of the most productive ecosystems, would be gone. Before sea otters were reintroduced to western Vancouver Island and kelp beds made a come back, there were only beds of sea urchins.
Winking at the viewer, a sea otter snuggles into a bed of kelp on Vancouver Island. One of few mammals to use tools, sea otters will often break open shells with rocks, while lying on their backs.