A wild Southern Sea Otter mom, seeking shelter from stormy seas, gave birth to her pup in the ‘Great Tide Pool’ at Monterey Bay Aquarium on the afternoon of March 5. Guests and Aquarium staff were fortunate to witness the amazing birth of the wild pup.
Sea Otters can give birth in water or on land. The otter mom starts grooming her pup right away to help it stay warm and buoyant. Besides keeping the pup afloat, grooming also helps get the blood flowing and other internal systems revved up for a career of chomping on invertebrates and keeping near shore ecosystems, like the kelp forests in Monterey Bay, and the eel grass at Elkhorn Slough, healthy.
Monterey Bay’s Sea Otter researchers have been watching wild otters for years and have never seen a birth as close-up like this.
After a three-day stay, the wild Sea Otter mom and her fluffy pup headed out into Monterey Bay. There are busy days ahead as this otter mom will teach her pup how to dive, collect food and other skills needed for life in the wild.
By the time a pup is two months old, it’ll have shed most of its fluffy pup coat and be doing lots of exploring and diving. Soon it will be playing its role as a keystone species, keeping kelp-grazing sea urchins in check.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium's Sea Otter Program has been studying the threatened Southern Sea Otter since 1984 with the aim of understanding threats to the population and promoting its recovery. They also rescue, treat and release injured otters; raise and release stranded pups through a surrogate program; and seek homes for Sea Otters that can't return to the wild.