sea otter

Sea otter clutches man’s leg in amazingly close encounter; image is a video screen grab

A man wading in a bay on Vancouver Island experienced a close encounter of the cutest kind recently, involving a wild sea otter that swam up to snuggle against his legs in a surprisingly long and intimate get-together.

The footage in the accompanying video was captured at Cadboro Bay in southern Vancouver Island, in British Columbia, Canada.

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But was it wise for the man to remain in the water, and even attempt to pet the otter, instead of backing onto shore and merely observing?

Of course not, say experts who are familiar with otter behavior. The sea otter has a powerful bite displays aggression when agitated.

At one point the man reaches down to pet the otter and appears to be nipped in the hand, but the animal continued to swim around and against his legs before finally moving on.

Said Tessa Danelesko, a marine mammal expert at the Vancouver Aquarium: "Getting close to otters and other marine mammals is dangerous for a number of reasons. They can behave unpredictably, which poses a safety risk if they use their natural defense mechanisms like teeth or claws. Animals can also transmit diseases to people through close contact."

sea otter

Sea otter photo is a video screen grab

Andrew Johnson, Sea Otter Program Manager for the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California, cautioned against encouraging this type of behavior, saying it could cause this otter to grow bolder and eventually become aggressive.

Johnson added: “Otters are curious. It’s usually the younger animals that have the time and inclination to interact with people, so avoiding/discouraging these interactions is the proper response. I know that people enjoy wildlife encounters and want memorable experiences, but letting wild animals approach and engage is beyond dangerous.”

All of this is good to know, because for many it'd be hard to resist the urge to accept a friendly approach by such a cute and iconic animal.

The video was shared Wednesday night on the Vancouver Aquarium Facebook page. Reads one of  dozens of comments, from Carey Evenson:

"My instincts would have been to pet the otter but that’s only because I enjoy animals and want to naturally be affectionate towards an animal that would willingly come up to me! I didn’t see anything wrong with this and I probably would have done the same thing! Sorry if you disagree but that’s how I am."

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