Why You Should Never, Ever Poke A Sleeping Sea Otter

Once upon a time, a sea otter was sleeping while floating in the ocean, peacefully unaware of a nearby boat of gawking, giggling humans.

While the otter napped, possibly dreaming of tasty sea urchins, one brazen onlooker decided to reach out and poke the poor creature. Naturally, the sea otter jolted awake in apparent terror before scurrying away into deeper waters.

A video of the incident was posted to Live Leak on Monday and quickly went viral. The Internet — particularly wildlife experts — had a lot to say about it.

While many laughed off the video for being “hilarious” or “adorable,” marine biologist David Shiffman took to Twitter to scold netizens. He also pointed out that touching a sea otter is illegal under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act.

This is a clear, unequivocal case of wildlife harassment, illegal under ESA/MMPA. Don’t glorify it. @Mashable @_LLRobertson r @LanceUlanoff

— David Shiffman (@WhySharksMatter) October 6, 2015

According to both acts, it is unlawful to harass, pursue, torment or annoy certain marine mammals, including sea otters, which are considered threatened under the ESA. It is actually unlawful to even attempt to do any of the aforementioned things. Violators could be fined up to $20,000 and face up to a year in jail.

Moreover, human-to-sea otter interactions can end in injury to both the animal and the human.

“If [sea otters] feel unduly threatened, they will get aggressive,” Carrie Goertz, staff veterinarian for the Alaska SeaLife Center, told The Huffington Post. “It’s also just not smart, as they have sharp teeth and claws; some refer to them as ‘chainsaws with fur.'”

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