On June 25, the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre admitted a tiny male Sea Otter pup as a patient. The fuzzy-faced otter pup, now estimated to be about two months old, was found swimming alone in open water off northern Vancouver Island and brought to the Rescue Centre by a concerned citizen.
You first met the pup on ZooBorns when he was just a few weeks old. Since his arrival at the Rescue Centre, the tiny otter has received 24-hour care from staff and volunteers who feed, bathe and groom him, just as his mother would in the wild. Baby Sea Otters cannot survive on their own, and depend on their mothers for the first six months of life.
Photo Credits: Vancouver Aquarium (1,3,4,5); Meighan Makarchuk (2)
Care and rehabilitation of rescued marine mammals is very labor-intensive, and it takes a whole team of dedicated staff and volunteers to care for this tiny pup.
The little Otter continues to gain weight steadily and has been growing stronger and more active. He now weighs nearly nine pounds and is growing quickly. He is still nursing from the bottle, and drinks 25 percent of his body weight per day in a special Otter pup formula made by the animal care team. This week, the baby Otter was offered his first solid food – five grams of clams, which he gobbled up enthusiastically. He eats every three hours, 24 hours a day.
The care team says the pup is curious and enjoys exploring. He pup is now grooming himself a little bit, but still needs help from the care team to remain clean and fluffy. They also report that the pup is learning to dive and can dive to the bottom of his swim tub to retrieve toys.
Sea Otters are and Endangered species. They were hunted for their fur until the early 20th century, when their population fell to just a few thousand individuals in a tiny portion of their former range. Bans on hunting and other conservation measures have helped, but Sea Otters are still threatened by fishing net entanglement and oil spills.
A tiny male Sea Otter pup, estimated to be just two to four weeks old, is now in 24-hour care at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, after concerned members of the public found it swimming alone in open water off northern Vancouver Island on Sunday.
Although the pup appears healthy, he requires care night and day from the Rescue Centre team, just as he would from his mother. Staff and volunteers are spending shifts feeding, bathing and grooming the newborn pup, which has not yet been named.
“Sea Otters have high energetic needs; after birth they spend about six months with mom, nursing, being groomed by her and learning to forage and be a Sea Otter, so this little guy is still a fully dependent pup. He would not survive on his own, and we’re providing him with the care he needs right now,” said Lindsaye Akhurst, Manager of the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, which is presented by Port Metro Vancouver.
According to the report provided to the Rescue Centre, boaters collected the Sea Otter pup after it approached and then followed their boat while vocalizing. There were no adult Sea Otters in sight. Once in Port Hardy, officers from Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) arranged for the transfer to the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre. Although well intentioned, both DFO officials and Rescue Centre personnel say the distressed animal should have been reported first rather than taken from the ocean. “Once they’re removed from the wild it’s impossible to determine if the mother is alive and if they could have been reunited, or if bringing him in was the appropriate action,” said Akhurst.
Paul Cottrell, Marine Mammals Coordinator, Pacific Region, DFO, reminds the public that touching or capturing wild marine mammals is illegal. Decisions about the pup’s future will be made by DFO.
Photo Credits: Vancouver Aquarium
Once extinct from Canada, the Sea Otter (Enhydra lutris) has successfully been reintroduced to British Columbia, and mainly lives off Vancouver Island. Subsequent population growth and range expansion enabled the Government of Canada to change the listing of the species from “Threatened” to “Special Concern” in 2009, as recommended by COSEWIC.
Major causes of death among Sea Otters are lack of food, predators and environmental contamination. A recent study, conducted by researchers from UC Santa Cruz, U.S. Geological Survey and the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and published in the Journal of Experimental Biology, found the energetic cost of rearing Sea Otter pups could also be leading to higher mortality rates in adult females, and more incidents of pup abandonment.
The Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, a hospital for sick, injured or orphaned marine mammals, is the only one of its kind in Canada. Under authorization from DFO, the team rescues, rehabilitates and releases more than 100 animals each year; in 2016, they rescued more than 170 animals. For every patient, the goal is to treat, rehabilitate and return it to the wild as soon as possible. The veterinary team provides medical treatment to Harbor Seals, Sea Otters, Sea Lions, Sea Turtles, Elephant Seals, Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises.
This year’s rescue season is proving to be a busy one already. As well as the Sea Otter pup, the Rescue Centre has provided assistance and care to a California Sea Lion, a Steller Sea Lion pup, and 29 Harbor seals.
The Vancouver Aquarium would like to remind the public, if you see a stranded marine mammal, do not approach it and keep domestic pets away. Call the Vancouver Aquarium’s Marine Mammal Rescue Centre at 604.258.SEAL (7325) for immediate assistance.
To report abandoned or injured wildlife in the United States, contact the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service at: 1.844.397.8477
*The Vancouver Aquarium is a self-supporting, accredited institution and does not receive ongoing funds to provide around-the-clock care for its rescued and rehabilitated animals. To make a contribution for the care of this Sea Otter pup, please visit support.ocean.org/rescuedotter.
Both pups were just a few weeks old when rescued – far too young to survive on their own. They were brought to Alaska SeaLife Center’s I.Sea.U where they each received 24-hour care.
The pups were deemed non-releasable by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services because without their mothers, the pups never learned basic survival skills. Vancouver Aquarium was asked to provide a long-term home for the pups. Accompanied by animal care professionals, the pups departed Alaska last week for their new home in Vancouver.
The pups do not yet have names. Fans can help select their names by voting here through November 16.
Photo Credit: Daniela Ruiz/Alaska SeaLife Center
“After being found without their mothers and unable to care for themselves, these animals have been given a second chance at life,” said Brian Sheehan, curator of marine mammals at Vancouver Aquarium. “The ongoing care for a Sea Otter takes a tremendous amount of resources, and that role will continue here as our marine mammal team helps them integrate into their new home.”
Now weighing a healthy 12 kilograms, the male Sea Otter pup has been maintaining a steady diet, eating about 2.5 kilograms daily of clams, capelin, and squid. At 10.9 kilograms, the female otter eats about 2.0 kilograms of the same seafood mix.
Sea Otters face a number of challenges in the wild. During its first six months a Sea Otter pup is highly dependent on its mother for food and, without her, is unable to survive. Much of the mother’s energy is dedicated to the pup and, as a result, her health may decline over the feeding period. Female Sea Otters give birth every year so if she determines that she has a better chance of rearing a pup the following year, due to environmental factors or availability of prey, then she may abandon the pup before it’s weaned. In adult life, Sea Otters continue to face numerous threats including disease, oil spills, predation, interactions with fisheries and overharvest.
Ninety per cent of the world’s Sea Otters live in Alaska’s coastal waters. Within the state of Alaska, the Southeast and Southcentral stocks are stable or are continuing to increase. The Southwestern stock is listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) after experiencing a sharp population decline over the last two decades, attributed to an increase in predation from transient Killer Whales.
Shedd Aquarium’s rescued Southern Sea Otter pup, which came to the aquarium as part of a collaborative partnership with Monterey Bay Aquarium, is currently known as ‘Pup 681’. She has been swimming past significant milestones over the last few weeks and is growing quickly. Already double in size and weighing in at a little over 10 pounds, Pup 681 is now ready for a name!
Shedd is partnering up with ABC’s morning television show, “GoodMorningAmerica”,to name the female Sea Otter pup, through the “Name the Sea Otter Pup” voting contest.
“The entire organization celebrates Pup 681 as a meaningful way to educate our guests and have a better understanding of sea otters, which is critical to conserve and protect this species,” said Tim Binder, Vice President of Animal Collections for Shedd. “Over the past few weeks, she has won the hearts of many in Chicago and across the nation. We’re excited to team up with a national organization, to connect millions of people with this species inspiring conservation for wildlife and the environment through the engaging process of selecting a name for our Sea Otter with everyone.”
“Good Morning America” invites viewers to get involved with the contest by casting their votes online, via a poll, found on the right side of their page, at GoodMorningAmerica.com on Yahoo. Participants can submit votes as often as they like until Thursday, Dec.11 at 3 p.m. EST. The final name will be revealed on Friday, Dec. 12.
The public will choose from five names, selected by Shedd’s marine mammal staff. Shedd has a history of naming animals that are rescued affiliated with the locations of which they were found. Names include:
Cali - To honor the California otter
Ellie - Año Nuevo State Park is well known for its elephant seals, also Elkhorn Slough - an area that is right up the coast from Monterey that is home to many Sea Otters
On Tuesday, Nov. 18 at 12 p.m. CT, Shedd Aquarium and Monterey Bay Aquarium will host a Google Hangout On Air session with the public to share the latest progress and information on rescued Sea Otter Pup 681.
Moderated by legendary journalist and aquarium supporter, Bill Kurtis, the live, online event will feature a behind-the-scenes look at the growing Sea Otter pup and first-hand accounts from Shedd and Monterey Bay experts involved in her rescue and continual, round-the-clock care.
Registration for the Google Hangout On Air session can be found at the following:
The female pup arrived at Shedd on October 28th from Monterey Bay Aquarium in California, where she spent the first four weeks of her life being stabilized. The pup has been doing well since her arrival, receiving continual care behind the scenes of Shedd’s Abbott Oceanarium, and she currently weighs in at just under 6 pounds and 22.6 inches long. She is the second pup from the threatened Southern Sea Otter population to reside at Shedd. Currently referred to as “Pup 681,” Shedd’s animal care and veterinarian teams are providing the continual, round-the-clock care she needs to thrive.
The small, vulnerable pup was found on September 30th on Coastways Beach in California, and, at that time, was estimated to be only one week old and weighing around 2 pounds. A citizen on an evening walk heard the newborn otter’s cry and quickly notified The Marine Mammal Center (TMMC). TMMC staff contacted Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Sea Otters Program, and scientists determined the pup could not be safely retrieved that evening due to the remote location and impending darkness. The following morning, the pup was still in the same location and determined to have been orphaned, and it was estimated she had been separated from her mother for at least 16 hours. Scientists from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the Sea Otter Program responded immediately to recover the pup and transport her to Monterey Bay Aquarium.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Sea Otter Program has been studying and helping recover the threatened Southern Sea Otter since 1984. The program works with other aquariums, such as Shedd, and wildlife rescue facilities to respond to every sea otter that comes ashore in distress along the California coast. Over the past 25 years, nearly 700 sea otters have come through this program.
Stranded Sea Otter pups require extensive round-the-clock care and there are only a handful of facilities in the United States with the available space, staff and experience to provide the appropriate care. Shedd officials and animal care staff quickly accepted Monterey Bay Aquarium’s call to provide the stranded pup with a permanent home.
To ensure the pup receives everything that she needs, a rotating schedule of six to eight animal care experts provides care and attention 24 hours a day, seven days a week. During this intensive nurturing period, she will remain behind the scenes in the Regenstein Sea Otter Nursery as she develops certain behaviors, such as grooming, foraging, and feeding, as well as regulating her own body temperature by getting in and out of the water.
As she acclimates to her new surroundings, Pup 681 reaches new milestones every day, including taking formula from a bottle, eating solid foods such as shrimp and clams and even climbing upon white towels when she gets wet to help her groom and regulate her body temperature.
Back in March we brought you the story of a young Sea Otter rescued by the residents of Port Heiden, Alaska. Discovered alone on the beach next to his deceased mother, the pup was cared for overnight by concerned citizens, then flown to the Alaska SeaLife Center. One month and one FedEx plane ride later, the pup begins a new life at the Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium and will go on exhibit next Friday, April 27th. FedEx specializes in transporting animals between zoological institutions safely and comfortably.
Above photo credits: Alaska SeaLife Center
The next milestone for the little pup will be to acclimate to his new environment in Pittsburgh, begin eating solid food, respond to keeper’s cues which will teach him cooperative and husbandry behaviors. These behaviors will allow him to participate in his own care such as voluntary weigh-ins, and presentation of paws and flippers. He will develop his natural instincts as he grows and when he is bigger will be slowly introduced to Alki and Chugach, the Zoo’s current sea otter residents.
Sea Otter pup arriving in Pittsburgh. Photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Zoo.
Aquarium visitors have the chance to take a sneak peek at the newest furry baby animal at the Aquarium of the Pacific through daily behind-the-scenes tours as of Friday, Dec. 10. The three-month old orphaned Sea Otter was stranded and rescued off of Santa Cruz when she was just weeks old.
The WCS's New York Aquarium has just released a new video of everybody's favorite feisty pup - Tazo the orphan Sea Otter! Rescued and rehabilitated by the Alaska SeaLife Center back in August, Tazo continues to exhibit the talkative, troublemaking spirit evident in previous videos. While the pup is not yet on exhibit, he will most likely make a public debut later this year.
Second photo credit: Julie Larsen Maher / WCS NY Aquarium
Little Sea Otter pup #502 arrived at the Monterey Bay Aquarium after being discovered weak, sick and alone on a California beach. After four weeks of antibiotics delivered via frozen clams and a behind the scenes introduction to a surrogate mother named Joy, #502 went on exhibit to the public last week. She got her temporary numerical name because she was the 502nd Sea Otter rescued by the Monterey Bay Aquarium's SORAC program since its founding in 1984. Unfortunately, due to the ongoing nature of #502's medical treatment, she cannot be released back into the wild because she won't have the necessary wild-otter skills. Eventually she may be introduced to another orphan turned education animal, the not-to-be-missed Kit, who we met earlier in the summer.